On 3rd July 2019, 30 of our P4 students were all prepared for their overseas learning trip to Brunei. They had spent precious time after school over 2 weeks to prepare for the trip. They learnt about the history and unique cultures of Brunei and the importance of communications and the responsibility in looking out for one another during the trip. They also spent time rehearsing their presentation and performance for students and teachers of Haji Mohd Jaafar Maun Primary School in Brunei. They were all ready to fly off as they walked into the school confidently with their luggage in tow.
With a happy send-off at school and at Changi Airport by School Leaders, staff and parents, our students took charge of themselves and followed through the immigration with confidence. The 2-hour flight on board Royal Brunei Airlines was smooth and pleasant. The airline staff was friendly and welcoming air and all of us landed safely. A clean and modern international airport greeted us upon landing.
Our 2 half-days of school immersion at Haji Mohd Jaafar Maun Primary School was an unforgettable experience for Concordians and all the teachers. The entire school, including some of the students’ parents welcomed us in style and we were humbled by their warm and kind gestures. Interactive activities were organised for us, including learning Bahasa Brunei, traditional Brunei games, musical instrument and trying out local dish of Ambuyat, made from sago flour and eating it the Bruneian way! Truly amazing culture and we are so very grateful to the Principal, Mdm Hjh Noriani, and all her staff, for graciously hosting us. Our students overcame the initial language barrier and shyness and eventually became friends with their local buddies. They were sad on the last day when they had to say goodbyes to their Brunei buddies. We hope they keep in touch, for we will surely keep in touch with the teachers who have since become our newfound friends.
Aside from the school experience, we had insightful lessons at various places in Brunei. Fighting their fear of walking on wooden planks connecting many houses on stilts in Kampong Air, our students got to try different local kuehs and drank their local tea made by the residents in one of houses on stilts. To get from one place to another, one has to take a river taxi on a speedboat.
At the one and only Sago factory in Brunei, our students got to ply the trunk of a sago tree trunk to get to the pulp which would be crushed by the machine to extract the sago starch. The friendly factory owner showed us how the sago trunks would be kept to decompose, after which the fat and squirmy sago worms would feed on the decomposed pulp. These worms are high in protein and they can be eaten live or fried. After learning that sago worms have been Brunei’s traditional food for decades and that they are high in protei, our students and teachers overcome initial discomfort and bravely tried the fired sago worms, which tasted like fried chicken! Yum! Concordians are resilient as they are determined to overcome any obstacles that may come their way to the best of their ability.
Our visit to the Wasan Padi field was an eye-opener for our students. The host prepared local games and taught our students how to play the tops and congkak. They also got to cook local fritters with the friendly Brunei hosts! The most exciting part of the visit was the visit to the vast padi fields! Every student got into the muddy padi field and “walked” like a farmer in the knee-deep muddy water in the padi field. They realised that it was a tough job to work in the field as their feet were stuck in the mud and movement in the water was slow and difficult. They reflected that it was hard work for padi farmers to produce rice and it made them think deeper about the way they might have wasted cooked rice back home.
Over 80% of Brunei’s population is muslim. We had the opportunity to visit two majestic national mosques right in the heart of its capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. They were namely Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudin Mosque and Jame' Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque. We were all in awe with its grandeur and the golden domes stood out sparklingly in mid-day sun.
Last but not the least, over the short span of 4 days, our students grew more responsible and independent as they went about taking care of themselves and their buddies. They stayed engaged throughout the trip, participated actively in all activities and asking the hosts questions to discover more about Brunei. They greeted friendly Bruneians cheerfully and interacted with the locals confidently and respectfully. They espoused Concord’s Core Values through the trip. Good job, Concordians!
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