The next day began like any other day. Homestay tags were issued, and this time round, I had a Japanese youth as my homestay mate. I felt more comfortable going into this homestay, since a majority of Bruneians speak English, as well as a form of Malay which meant no huge language barrier.
We had the homestay matching ceremony in the stadium, and I met my homestay mother and her friend. I was actually thankful to be able to make small talk with her, and I found out so much about her just within that few moments. We had the official commencement of the ceremony, after which, we were free to go home with our families.
My homestay mother, who we call Datin, is on the extreme right. She reminded me of my own mother abit, especially with the love for gardening and the age group that she’s in. She grew up in Singapore as well, but moved to Brunei because her father became a part of the oil business. The most interesting thing I found out was that she was one of the first few women to actually further her studies to college, especially since most Bruneians used to believe that women should be married and staying home at a relatively young age. Her parents encouraged her to pursue further studies, which made her a really independent woman.
Her husband, the ex-communications minister, passed away and so she lives in the house with her niece, and her grandchildren. Another fun fact? Bruneian families are not only huge, but they’re very close knit. They build their houses all close by to each other, and our cousin’s house was just a short walk away, which was really cool.
We made a beeline for the Istana first since it was along the way. We couldn’t go in, but we managed to take a few pictures at the gate.
And then it was home to an amazing spread of local food. All too familiar to my palette :’) I put on so much weight while I stayed there, my friend said my skirt was too tight for me at the end of the homestay period. Woops.
Lunch stuffed me senseless. I swear I could not think after that. Our rooms and everything else left my jaw dragging along behind me.
That evening, we went out to roam around at the mosques; one place which I really wanted to visit. Mosque architecture is always very different. They build them from the inside out, and not the other way around.
The mosque grounds were absolutely breathtaking. Surrounded by well kept flower bushes, fountains and clean paved pathways, it was a beautiful sight. The minarats and domes gleamed gold under the evening sun. I promise you, no edits to any of my pictures.
After the eye-opening mosque expedition, it was back home to more food.
Goreng pisang. i.e. fried bananas.
I’m usually allergic to bananas. Not rash allergic, more of bowel-allergic.
I downed 14 of those in one sitting. They were THAT good. And also explains my excessive and sudden weight gain.
Oh, the fried bananas was just tea. We had a dinner to attend to with our mother at night, by invitation from Sotorindu.
She deigned to mention that she was a VIP guest, so me and Azu, my homestay mate wore really really casual clothes. We ended up sitting at the table of ministers and translators in front of the main press camera.
Sotorindu is famous for their hearty mee-soto and their catering services. Although Singapore and Brunei cuisine are quite similar, our traditional food is very different. We have rojak, and they have ambuyat.
Ambuyat looks somewhat like muah chee, and is eaten like how you would eat traditional honey candy – with chopsticks. So, you twirl the muah chee looking concoction around your chopsticks; be wary, there’s a skill to the twirling, and then you dip it in spicy sauce or some other form of sauce. The spicy one was by far my favourite.
Oh, and a word of advice, never try to twirl too much around your chopsticks. You don’t chew on ambuyat. You swallow it whole.
It was a night full of food, catching up with the other youths, as well as weird traditional dancing in the backyard. All while trying to maintain full composure in front of the press.
No, it’s not easy.
Especially when you’re trying to swallow a huge wad of ambuyat without looking like a chipmunk.