Monday, 31 March 2008

Aiming high

One of the things my lifecoaching sessions has taught me is that having goals is really important in your life. I've never really had any, I’ve always been more of a person that goes with the flow and takes the opportunities as they come. I’ve lived day to day and in a way, most things that has happened in my life, has been more by chance.
I had as homework one week to set up goals, short-time and long-time ones, and I found that really hard! I just want to be happy, and my family to be happy; and at the moment we are.

But – now I do have a goal actually! A goal which also is the special purpose for my training (other than just loose weight and get fit):
I’m going to climb Mount Kinabalu!
We have formed a Swedish Team and today we had a meeting to finalize all the plans for our climb. It will take place the last weekend in May. Anna is already fit enough; but Maria and I are training at Bukit Shabandar, as many times a week we can. Claudia will be coming too, and will start training now. She is German, but married to a Swede and she talks fluent swedish – so she will be the honorary member of our Swedish Team.

Mount Kinabalu
is one of the highest peaks in South-east Asia with it’s 4095,2 m. The thing about this mountain is that you don’t need any special climbing equipment, neither to be extremly fit to climb it. You do need to have a reasonable level of fitness though, which we are well on our way to achieve.
You do the climb in two parts, the first one normally takes between 3-6 hours, and will take you up to a base camp, where you can hire rooms and get a meal. You are then supposed to get up very early the next day and set off at 3 am, to continue the climb up to the top, aiming to reach the summit just in time to watch the sunrise from there.

This second part takes between 1-3 hours; and then you have to get on with the descent obviously. Descending apparently is the hardest part for your body, and normally takes between 3-5 hours.
(To compare, they do a Climbathon once a year, where the hardcore athletes do the climb – and the record time to get up AND down, is 2 h 34 minutes!)
We are planning to fly up there (to Kota Kinabalu) on the Friday night, do the climb up to Laban Rata (the rest place) on the Saturday, the top and descent early Sunday morning and then rest a bit before we fly back to Brunei Monday morning.
It will be GREAT!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Kindy Schedule 31 March-4 April

Term 3 Week 1 – Weather
Focus activities:

Big book – I like the rain
Weather Bear – What will he wear today?
Song – What is the weather today? Plus other rain and sun songs
Role play – TV weather presenters / weather reports
Making Weather spinners
Numbers – Higher and higher
What is your favourite type of weather? – simple graph actitivy…

Easter Holidays are over, and on Monday Lucas goes back to school again.
Next week they are going to talk about weather, and on Monday they are asked to bring a photo of themselves dressed up for a special type of weather. I think we will send a photo of Lucas in his snowsuit - that will be a bit different!
Wednesday they have wet weather day, and will have to come dressed in rainy day clothes, and bring an umbrella! Looks like it will be a fun week!

Friday, 28 March 2008

What do you do all day?

You have no idea how many times I’ve had that question… and mostly with a very astonished look and raised eyebrows to go with – or, if it’s over the phone, in a querying, often negative tone.

I don’t understand why it is so difficult for to see past the fact that I’m currently not holding a ”real” job down here. Is that really all there is to a person, what you do for profession?! I guess it is to some.
I also don’t understand, why it is so difficult for some, to imagine what they would do, if they didn’t have to work. Because, let’s face it, most people DO work because they have to, not because they want to. Yes, yes, they might have a job they like, sure, and good for them. But they still work essentially because they have to – to make ends meet.
Now I can hear you say ”I like my job, it makes me feel fulfilled, gives my life a meaning. I’m a better mother when I work. I need to use my brain. Yadi ya ya”… Yes. I do believe that. I do believe you. Why is it so hard then to believe ME when I say that I have other things (than a job), and enough of them, in my life to make ME feel fulfilled?!?

I feel that I am privileged. I do have a choice: I could work if I want to, but out of wish – not out of need. Or we can live on one salary here. It’s really a privilege.

So, what do I do all day?? ☺

Well, firstly, let me tell you that when I came down here I had one personal aim – to find ”myself” again. I feel like Nathan and I are just coming out on the other side, after quite a few years now in the baby/toddler-swamp… I have been nothing but ”mummy” and have had time for not much else, than my children. Also, we never really had a trusty babysitter in the UK, other than when our parents came for visit, or sometimes when we asked our friends, but that wasn’t often.
Now, as the kids are growing up and becoming more and more independent, I can get time to myself, to find out what I want to do again. That was what I was planning to do when I came here, find myself and do all the things, I have been wanting to do for a long time, but never had time for.
So that’s what I do!

I exercise regularly, as you know, every day actually! I have taken up swimming training and tennis lessons; I do the hash, other jungle runs and go to the gym – all these things are new to me, I've never been a sporty person. I find that I'm challenging myself in a big way here, something I haven't done in that way in a long time. (Yes, being a mother certainly is a challenge too, but you know what I mean!)
I study at the University, over the internet, a course about photography (my big interest) and photo editing. I get to learn lots of things, which is something I haven't really had time to do either for a while.
I have been taking up my nr 1 hobby, scrapbooking again finally, and that might lead to something more too (more about that later).
Not to forget, I have been socializing and networking – all which comes with moving to a new place! That really takes time!
I feel that I am very busy here, sometimes there is not enough hours in the day!
I take Linnea to playgroups and on play dates. We take the kids swimming and meet up with their little friends. Soon too, we hope to get our boat in the water, and I hope to learn more about boating, maybe even try some wakeboarding.
Of course it’s the normal everyday things here too, like anywhere – taking kids to school and back. Going to the supermarket. Having evenings on the sofa watching TV, and so on. And I drive a lot – Brunei is a country where you have to drive to get to everything. So I drive a lot.

Above all, we have loads of time as a family, both quality AND quantity time. Nathan doesn’t work anywhere near as much as he did back in the UK, and Lucas finishes school at 12.30 every day. So we have the whole afternoon together, every day, to swim or play or play sports. (And no, we don't have to do any housework, since we have the amah.) Who wouldn’t want that?!

We are very happy here, and this move has done our family so much good. I’m sure (most of?) you are happy with your lives back home as well, and I’m happy for you.
I’m not saying this lifestyle would suit everybody anyway – but at least, stop questioning this choice I've made - just be happy for me too!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

First Giant visit

We have been waiting for a while now for this huge shopping complex to open, just across the road from us. It's Malaysia's leading retailer chain "Giant" that finally has come to Brunei. They have been busy building it forever it seems, but last Saturday it finally had it's grand opening, and today we decided we better go and check it out.

We made the mistake going there at lunchtime, and although the parking was indeed enormous we had trouble finding a park, it took us at least 20 minutes.
The hypermarket certainly lives up to it's name. It's a Bruneian version of Bilka/Coop/Asda - and it is really gigantic. Not only do they sell groceries, but everything else from shoe shelves and tool boxes to carpets and vacuum cleaners. They also have a food court outside, and lots of little shops selling all sorts of different things.

We weren't too impressed though. It was big, yes. It had lots of things, yes. But not really the things we want, like fresh milk, cheese (that is not already sliced) and a big fresh meat selection.
It's a shame, because it's so close, but I will stick to my normal supermarket I think.

Back in the Abode

So, after a long trip yesterday, we are back in Brunei.
We left Granddad looking a lot better, but still not feeling 100% unfortunately. Hopefully he will make a full recovery very soon, but to be honest - maybe he didn't get all the rest he needed this week, with the two little "chickens" running around...

We have had a nice time together though, and we are all happy we went.

It's also nice to be back home, and to get back into routine. Nice to get back to a clean house and full fridge (I love having an amah!). We are already unpacked, and are just enjoying a quiet day at home.
School starts again on Monday and I can't wait to get out and do a Bukit-run or play some tennis, or something.

Traffic fun

I haven't done proper research in to how much exactly a personalized number plate costs in NZ, but they must be rather cheap because there is loads of them!
It's quite fun actually, to study them while you drive around, there are so many fun messages out there on the cars. Not only can they personalize the number itself, but also the text above and under, check this one out:

(Click on it to make it bigger)

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Thirstquenching technology

Nathan has got himself some new footwear, some nice Reef Mike Fanning Signature sandals. These sandals must be one of the best things ever happened to thirsty men - they have a bottle opener build in to the sole!

Why haven't anyone thought about this before?! It's genius!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all of you!

We are all enjoying ourselves and having a good time here in NZ.
Gratefully, Bruce's injury wasn't as bad as we were fearing at first, so we have managed to get into vacation mode, and just revel in all being together at the moment.

The Easter Bunny did find the kids even here, left some big chocolate eggs, and tomorrow there will be an Easter Egg Hunt around the playhouse!
The kids go down to the next-door's trampoline, they play frisbee and football and their new favourite game is to turn off all the lights in the house when it's dark outside, and play hide-and-go-seek with flashlights.

We are eating all the bacon, ham and roast pork that we can fit, and of course relish all the rest of Yvonne's yummy meals too, as always. We get very well taken care of here!

Here is Yvonne and I on a walk we did yesterday, about 6 km in the Spa Park here in Taupo, all the way down to the famous Huka Falls. It was absolutely wonderful, check out the clear water, and the gorgeous colours on the tree. The shift in nature during the different seasons is one of the things I miss the most with being in Brunei.

I lost my favourite sunglasses back in December, and was so happy the other day passing through Brisbane, when I found a similar and even better pair:

Lunch down at the waterfront:

Thursday, 20 March 2008

That high again

Today I had a new kind of (sporty) high – when I went into the sports shop! It’s true! I kind of got high looking at all the nice gear!

Got some new hiking shoes for my Bukit runs, some new sports shorts and a headlamp, for the Hash. Also kitted the kids out, in another shops, with some extra sports clothes for the hash, and the football. Shopping is nice!

The Kiwi patient

I thought I would give you all a little update from NZ.

Nathan’s Dad, Bruce, is home again already. He got scanned all over the other day, but had no internal injuries or bleedings, luckily. He looks like a ”troll” though, with scrapes and bruises all over and a big black eye, with stitches around it.

He doesn’t remember much of the accident itself, but he seems to recall two big logging trucks passing by and knocking him over. He was found by the side of the road, and was conscious but didn’t know who he was for over 2 hours, so they couldn’t contact Yvonne, Nathan’s Mum.
They were quite worried at first, because he went in and out of consciousness, was pretty groggy and couldn’t answer simple questions. They looked at his helmet, that had suffered big damage, and were worried about internal traumas. Hence our quick decision to come.

But after a night in hospital, he already perked up, and could come home.
So now we are looking forward to celebrating Easter together! (It all was a bit surreal to be here yesterday actually, one moment we are swimming at the Yacht Club, the next we are on a plane to NZ. I couldn’t get my head around it at first, because I was so set on travelling Thursday, to Bali.)
NZ of course is lovely though, as always. The kids are enjoying spending time with their Grandparents and we all are having a good time.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Urgent change of plans

We had booked a trip to Bali now during the Easter holidays, but have had to make a quick change of plans today due to some not so good news.

Nathan's father has been taken to hospital this afternoon after a bad bicycle accident.
We still don't know how serious it is, but have decided to go down to NZ anyway as soon as we can, no matter what.
Even if it's not so bad, he will probably be in hospital for a while, and I'm sure we can be of some help and support, to him and the rest of the family.

So, we are shooting off on the next flight, which is tomorrow morning and we don't quite know when we will be back. (Good to have the amah here to look after the house since it's such short notice!) Right now we are busy trying to organize ourselves, get packed etc - and we are happy at least, we were not still in the UK!

We will be on our emails.
So long.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

I'm getting high

Someone told me the other day at the gym "you have really got the bug, haven't you?!". I guess so. The bug, the buzz, the high... call it what you want, I sure have it and it's doing me good!

"Which bug?" you might ask - the exercise bug.
I prefer to describe it as I have found my "high". You know that feeling you get, after you have done some serious workout; that content and proud feeling of having accomplished something you didn't think you could, or just that nice feeling after having worked yourself really hard.

I love that feeling. I kind of get high on that feeling every time, and that feeling is what I'm after when I exercise. That is what keeps me going on my treadmill or up and down my Bukit-hills. I get through it, because I'm longing for that feeling I get when I'm done!

As you know, I have made several attempts before to get into shape, start an exercise routine. I have never succeeded before, I have always given up after a few weeks or months, out of boredom.
I have understood now, it was because I never kept going long enough - I never reached that high. There was nothing that motivated me enough to continue through the hard parts. I always finished halfway through, and then the next time, exercise was even more of a chore...

Now I love it! All my exercise, I love it!
Mostly because I hunger for that high!

First Kids Hash

Once a month, they arrange a Kids Hash (or some call it Junior or Family Hash) somewhere in the jungle of Brunei. I decided it was about time we joined in on that too and today was the day!

It was a really hot afternoon today, we were hot and bothered already before it started, but loads of people were there to take part. They lay three different tracks, one for the older kids, one for the younger children and one for the toddlers.
You can see everybody here, going off in different directions. That's Linnea in the hat in the left corner:

They do the same thing with the paper trail, as for the adult ones. We had to follow the green paper today - the kids were all into looking for the paper.

After having completed todays track, we strongly doubted though, that whoever had laid the toddler track had actually had a toddler with them! It was a hard one! At one stage, I was in water up to my thighs, not a chance any toddler could have crossed that stream on their own without drowning!
Anne took Daniel over, and I took Linnea and then went back to get Lucas. Since I was by then already totally wet and yucky, I went back once again to get Malthe too so Anne didn't have to get in again. And yes, it got deeper than in this photo:

Lucas was brave and walked all of it by himself (took about 30 minutes), he grabbed on to the trees to help him up and down, and only sometimes needed my hand as support.

Linnea of course, needed to be carried quite a bit of the way. Mostly because the hills were too steep for her to climb on her own, but also because it was really muddy so she kept sliding and landing on her bum, and got a bit scared. But we did it, as a team effort!

Afterwards, you could buy hotdogs, and relax a bit. The kids were all playing, still full of energy, and they also organized some game involving eggs, since it's soon Easter.
Here they are, enjoying their dinner:

It was a really nice afternoon - and we will absolutely come back! (Next time I hope Nathan isn't working so I don't have to do it all on my own...)

Lucas swimming - The Movie

Ok, so here it is, after a lot of hard technical work. I haven't been able to edit it, so it is quite big and will take you a while to buffer:

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Bunny Hunt

Yesterday was also the last day of school before the two week Easter Holiday.
The children had been taking about Easter all week, and finished off by receiving a letter from the Easter Bunny! It said that he had been by and left some pictures of his bunny friends in the Kindy playground; and if the kids could find them, they would get a treat!

Us parents were all invited to take part in this event and the children were very excited! They had made special Easter bunnets and pretty baskets, and equipped with those off they went on a bunny hunt.

Here Lucas is with the picture he found:

And here he is with his treat:

Even Linnea managed to find a picture, and got a treat - lucky girl!

I really enjoy when we get invited to take part in these different activities in school, and I'm sure the kids love it when we come too. It's so nice to see what they do, and see the interaction between Lucas and all his little friends.

Friday, 14 March 2008

First football practice

Lucas was starting football today.
Lots of his little friends go to the RBA Club each Friday, to play football, and we thought that being involved in a team sport would do him good. It was all quite exciting.
Nathan had bought him some little football boots and shin guards, and dressed him up in his Swedish football outfit. He looked very cool.

He did a good job listening to instructions and paying attention to the coach:

Although he didn't get it right every time. Here he ran a bit too far away, they were supposed to stop on the line, but Lucas ran to the end of the field - and was happy he had "won"! Bless...

He didn't seem all convinced though. A one hour session in the hot sun of the afternoon, was a bit much this first time. He gave up after about 35 minutes, and sat and watched with us from the sideline. When I asked him if he wanted to come back next time, he was very hesitant. Maybe it was the slightly rough ambiance at the practice, maybe it was just that it was sooo hot.

Even the water bottle was colour coordinated!

The coach, Frank ("the football man" as Lucas said) was very firm with all the boys, quite strict and very loud, but all the kids seemed to love him. As much as he yelled at them, as much he gave praise too - and keeping a rowdy lot of about 20 4-7 year olds in line can't be easy!

We do hope that Lucas will want to go back again, it really seemed like all the boys had lots of fun!

Lucas can swim!

After football practice, we took the kids in to the swimming pool, to cool down a bit. It had been a hot afternoon, so we were all in the need of a quick swim.
It wasn't until today i realized, that Lucas has done tremendous progress with his swimming. He can actually now swim by himself for two-three meters!


(And here I had a movie of the event I wanted to publish, but I can't get it to work. Check back later, I will try again!)

Oh Happy Day!

This morning I went on the scales, as usual - but, imagine my surprise, when this...

... is what I saw! I had to go and get the camera, to capture this important moment: I am under 70 kgs for the first time since pre-children!!! YAY!
(Don't worry, I wont photograph every step of my weight loss, but this, this was a significant milestone for me!)

My goal is (and has been for a long time, or maybe, it's been more of a dream...) to get down to 65 kgs again, which would fit my 175 cms quite nicely. Up until now, that has proven impossible for me, believe me, I have tried... - but it seems like our new sportier and healthier lifestyle here in Brunei is doing the trick!

Not that the number that shows on the scales is the most important thing, but it is a nice motivation. :)
I can also feel in myself that I have become more fit, I can feel I have got muscles now and I can notice it on my clothes. I can also see it when I look in the mirror or on recent photos.

You know what - it is the greatest feeling!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Bukit Shabandar

Today I put my hiking legs to very good use. My friend Anna thought it was about time I "did a Bukit". That is, went around the track at Bukit Shabandar, a recreational park and one of the 11 forest reserves in Brunei.

It consists of hectares upon hectares of jungle and greenery - filled with tracks and paths for hiking, jogging or biking. I'm very proud to say, I did the whole loop = up and down NINE big hills..! That is a lot of up and down I tell you!
Here is a map of it all:

The park also contains a picnic area, a labyrinth and a very nice play area for kids. Many families come here to relax and play, mostly on the weekends.
But early mornings like today, you only see other hikers around who are completing different tracks on the hills.
Sometimes there is actual steps, other times you just have to make do with roots and stones to get up or down. It's quite a challenge, but what kept me going was thinking:
-"I will get a Kylie-bum... I will get a Kylie-bum... I will get..."

Here is the beginning of it all, this is nothing compared to what will come:

Here for example, one of the killer hills:

(Photo borrowed from Google Earth. Photographer: erlangga)

Here I am, taking a breather after having just crossed a river:


A nice little fella' we met along the way:

We also saw a big troupe of monkeys, heard lots of cool jungle noice and Anna saw a green snake - but it was gone before I got the camera up unfortunately.
Mostly, we saw plenty of beautiful scenery - the view certainly is better from the top!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Making a home

Even though we are still in temporary accommodation (yes... still...) we have as you might have read in earlier posts bought a few things of our own already (the toy-shelf and the sofas f.e).
All to try and minimize the feeling of living in a holiday apartment - and to make this house a home.

Last week we decided to go ahead and have some furniture custom made, since out here that's really cheap. There was a few things I had thought about for a while, like some bookshelves and a play table.
I surfed around and found some pictures on the internet of items similar to what I wanted and also made a few sketches.
Someone recommended us a carpenter, so we contacted him last Wednesday and he came around the same afternoon to take measurements - and today (only one week later!) he delivered our furniture:

Two bookshelves (copies from a wonderful shop in the UK):

A play table with a drawer, for Linnea's farm, made to fit the play mat perfectly:

A little table to raise the doll's house to a better play level:

The farm table and the bookshelf in Linnea's room:

And the bookshelf on it's place in Lucas' room:

I am really pleased with all the items, and it feels good to have found a reliable carpenter. Once we have found a house I will have a few more things done:
I would like to have some sort of big play table, or storage shelf, for all Lucas' Lego; I would like some small shelves and ledges for bits and bobs in the kids rooms; and last but not least - I will have him construct a play house for the kids!
That is, when we find a house...


Our own boat might not be ready for a while to get in to the sea, but we sure are!
Quite a few of our friends go out regularly, and they are offering to take us out every now and then. Sometimes so the guys can do some wakeboarding, sometimes just for a ride over to a beach, to have a picnic or a look around.
Up until now, we haven't really taken anyone up on their offer, but it's certainly about time we do!

So we thought it might be a good idea to get the kids to try wearing their life vests, not only on dry land - but also in the water. Just in case.
Here we are at the Empire pool, practicing floating:

Monday, 10 March 2008

Dinner with the Ambassador

So, yesterday was the big dinner with the Ambassador of Sweden to Brunei, Mr Pär Ahlberger - and the Swedish Business Delegation.

Us "local Swedes" met at our place first for a drink (or two) since we were living closest to the venue. Arriving to the hotel, we were met by this big PR sign for Sweden - made us a bit homesick:

Me and Maria:

Anna & Fredrik:

When we arrived down at the restaurant, we were met up by the Ambassador who seemed very happy to meet us all, and we exchanged business cards with him and got to have a little chat.

After a short speech (where he described us as "the little but vibrant Swedish community"), we tucked in to the buffet.

We had been discussing in advance, whether or not we thought there would be alcohol provided - I mean, it was a dinner with Swedes involved after all!
Someone thought that bringing our loaded eskys might not be the best idea, but since we weren't trusting that the delegation had thought about (or been allowed?) to bring in their allowance upon arriving that morning; our trusty husbands came up with a sly idea:

They filled up some innocent water bottles with gin, we then ordered some tonic water and could enjoy lovely G&Ts at our table ! (I know, very highschoolish, but, it's Brunei lah!)
There was no alcohol being served, so lucky us! :)

Me and Andrew:

As for mingling, there wasn't really any opportunities to, other than when we were lining up for the buffet - as we were all seated separately (and our little "vibrant group" were on a table of our own).
A few people did approach us and had questions about living in Brunei, most of them had never been here before even though they had been living for years in Singapore. We were a bit like the exotic addition to this dinner, since there is so few of us actually residing here.

We already got the heads up about the next formal visit from Singapore, and got booked up for that dinner in May!
Also the Ambassador came up and talked to us about a few of his ideas, and came up with a few possibilities for us - which could turn into something very interesting in the future!
So, watch this space!