Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The 13th month

Went downtown a bit today - bad, bad idea...
Not only has it been pay day, but also, this time of year the government employees get their bonus - called "The 13th month pay". The queues at the ATMs were insane, and it was near to impossible to maneuver around town.
We might just try another day..!

Better late than never!

Grandma was a bit reluctant when I first suggested for her to come to the hash. You see - she managed to avoid it all the ten years she was living here! But, as they say: "Better late than never"!
Last night we kitted her out in new exercise trousers, long socks and new hash shoes and off we went:

It was a very easy one this week, just along the road and back again actually. No jungle and no hills.
-"Piece of cake!", said Grandma!
We did see traces of some interesting wildlife though, here a wild bore crossing:

Grandma with her old friend Diana, who's been in Brunei over 30 years:

Grandma at the on-on:

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Biking at Muara Beach

Yesterday while Nathan was working, we took the kids up to Muara Beach for a bit of a bike ride. Ever since they opened their new gloves on Christmas they had been dying to try them out properly!
Granddad, Linnea & Lucas took off down the beach:

And back again:

And went the other way:

Then Grandma & Granddad got the history of this new beach development from a local guy who was happy to share all the knowledge he had:

Living the life

A lot of things have changed here in Brunei in the last 12 years it seems - but at least we could trust the Yacht Club to bring back memories! Same staff still as it used to be, and same relaxed atmosphere.
Grandma and Granddad are living the life!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Hotell Gyllene Knorren

We have a nice Christmas TV-tradition in Sweden, every year since 1960, they've sent 'Julkalendern' - a daily TV-show for children, each day from 1st of December up until Christmas Eve. A way of keeping them entertained all through that long wait I guess.
Each year it's a different theme, and it's always discussed whether this year is better than last year, enough Christmassy, enough snowy etc...

This year, the 'Julkalendern' was called 'Hotell Gyllene Knorren', and it seemed to be a success, both amongst TV critics and with my kids.

While we were in Sweden, the kids watched it religiously every morning at 06.45 - or (when they finally got over the jet lag and started sleeping in a bit) at the evening show at 18.45.

So, when we left on the 19th of December to go back home, it caused a bit of a problem because how would we now find out how it all ended?!
Well, SVT play is the thing! The kids (and me too) have been catching up on the missed episodes thanks to the internet, cool!

Our Christmas Day, 2010

Our Christmas Day was of the quieter kind this year, since it was "just" us - and the Grand Parents of course! I mean, quiet as in we stayed at home instead of heading out somewhere with too many other people, and it was much nicer this way.
We just took it easy most of the day, after the present opening in the morning, the day was mostly spent building Lego (there was a lot, as usual!) and playing with all the other fab, new gifts; eating chocolates and watching TV.

Grandma cooked us a lovely Christmas meal, turkey with all the trimmings, and we just enjoyed the day and each others company. It's not often we are spoiled with family for Christmas, so we're making the most of it!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Var är Fjant?

'Trolltyg i tomteskogen' (='Gnomes') is an American animated film from 1980, based on a book with the same title (that I happen to own, it's beautiful). It's a story about two little gnomes' wedding plans getting disturbed by some mean trolls - but it's also a narration to explain some of the facts about the different sorts of gnomes, and what sorts of duties they perform to help the creatures they live amongst.

Well, it's not just any old animation - it's a movie that has been shown on Swedish TV over and over again while I was a child; until it's unclear copyright status (after the production company shut down) made further viewing impossible by the Swedish TV until the status was resolved.
This year - that happened, and in December they released this movie on DVD. So of course, I bought a copy!
To my great pleasure, the kids seem to enjoy it just as much as I do, it really warms my heart to be able to share this childhood memory of mine with them.

Santa's visit 2010

After the traditional Julafton lunch, it was time for another tradition: Santa's visit! Last year we had a bit of a knock of the belief in the real Santa when Santa Matt had a beard-failure already when entering the house... but I think this year it all got restored when Santa Pete showed up.

Linnea straight away happily prodded his big tummy and realized there was no padding! Must be the real Santa!

The kids got a lot of presents from Scandinavia, both from Mormor and Morfar but also from Uncle Thomas (guess what..?), they were very spoiled.

While in Sweden, Mormor had also taken the kids out shopping separately, to get presents for Nathan and I, and for each other. They did so well, Lucas got me some Christmas things I had pointed at while walking through a shop earlier; and Linnea got me some pink earrings (although Mormor had told me had been eying up some gift ribbon she thought I'd like..?).
Lucas had carefully chosen a new tie for Nathan, and Linnea had found him some socks with Santa on it.
They were spot on with the presents for each other as well, Lucas got Linnea a 'Hello Kitty Pet Shop' and Linnea got Lucas a "finger-bike".
Mostly I think they enjoyed having secrets - the wrapping and labeling and secret stuff!

Swedish Christmas lunch

Our Julafton (=Christmas Eve) was spent with what has become a true Christmas tradition for us here in Brunei - a lovely Swedish Christmas lunch at the Scott's house.
Anna had gone through huge efforts as usual, to cook a great meal for her friends and even buy thoughtful presents for big and small.
It was nice to get Grandma and Granddad to experience a Swedish Christmas meal, even though they weren't brave enough to try the most traditional food..! :)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Winter Village

Today we had a little bit of Christmas build-up, Brunei style.
At the lush Empire Hotel & Country Club, they've had a 'Winter Village' going on all through December.

First when you entered the hotel, there was this huge Christmas tree in the foyer, all made out of proboscis monkeys! Pretty cool, and so suited for Brunei!

The 'Winter Village' was at the bottom of the big atrium, decorated with a few festive decorations, an open fire, snowmen, a Santa sledge etc. It was actually quite nice!

They offered festive drinks and snacks, and the kids could participate in crafty arts, both Lucas and Linnea iced some gingerbread men.

You could see they'd had some practice with the icing in Sweden!

And, they even had a snow show! At 8 pm, it started to snow, and all the kids got super excited - well, not mine so much..! They know real snow by now!

Even down in the village the little monkeys were a little bit everywhere in the display:

A lovely start to Christmas - bring it on!

The Christmas cake

Grandma and Granddad arrived safely in Brunei yesterday. It's their first visit to come and see us here. They actually used to live here themselves for about ten years, but this is the first time they're back since they left here 1998.
It's going to be rather interesting to show them around, so they can see how the place have changed - or maybe... not changed much!

Grandma had brought a big Christmas cake, and she got ample help icing and decorating it today by Linnea. They made pretty marzipan hollies to put on it:

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Jinxed journey

I've been thinking, I've done this journey between Scandinavia and Brunei now 13 times - and quite a few of those times things have gone wrong. I'm starting to feel like it's jinxed.

Already that very first trip down here, when we moved, the airplane got a bird through the motor and parts off the motor broke off and we had to return and land again. Three days in a hotel later, we finally got to leave. (That was actually the birth of this blog, I was so bored in that hotel I needed something to do, so at least one good thing came out of that!)

In March we nearly had to turn around and go back to Brunei when the tickets we had bought to go across to Scandiland all of a sudden turned out to be unvalid! It was either going back, or buying new ones an hour before the flight... Not a cheap trip.

On one of the other trips we had to do a 3 hour transit in CPH on the way to UK since they cancelled our direct flight, and one of our bags managed to get lost (and found luckily) between Sweden and the UK. On yet another trip Lucas fell in the escalator and trying to help him, both Lucas, Linnea and I tumbled all the way down to the bottom, ouch.

I'm wondering, what will happen next time?

The magician's apprentice

The kids were so busy the last day of our visit in Sweden, they didn't seem to remember our 'tradition' with a magic show on the last night.
Lucas had trouble falling asleep though, so he came downstairs and joined us for a while.
Morfar decided to share some of his magic tricks with him.

Lucas got a demonstration, got to practice a bit, and then got told he was getting these tricks for his own! Happiest kid in the world!

He got the ideas of the tricks quite quickly, now we just have to keep practicing the execution of them - but stay tuned, a great magician is born!

- 1,5

Ha ha, well, that's a first!!
Out of curiosity I weighed myself the first day I arrived at my parents place, and then again today when I got home - to see just how much the Christmas gluttony was going to add.
Well, it didn't!

Quite the opposite ha, ha - I had lost 1,5 kg!
I wonder if it was all the worrying that was going on, or if I just burned that many calories trying to keep warm maybe..! :)

"Please wait"

I think we can safely say that "Please wait" was the theme of our trip this time. We experienced quite some trouble both ways, thanks to this crazy snow situation in the UK, and there was a lot of waiting going on.

On the way over to Sweden, we had a two day stop-over planned in the UK with good friends. Luckily in a way, because Gatwick Airport was closed anyway those days! I just couldn't handle the uncertainty and not knowing how it was going to pan out very well, so I spent those days mostly worrying about whether it was going to open in time for our flight or not. I felt I wasn't really present, just constantly updating the Twitter feeds and thinking about a plan B.
We were lucky though (another theme for the trip - lucky!) and LGW just opened in the morning of the day of our flight, and we did get out. A couple of hours late (that we had to wait onboard the airplane because of queues for the de-icing trucks) but we got out.

The next few weeks that we spent in Sweden, there was no issues in the UK, or at least very few. The problems only started again two days before we were going to travel back home... of course. What's the odds??
So again, I started to worry and feel sick... This could get really bad if we didn't get on our flights, I could see Christmas getting messed up and everything...

Well, Heathrow closed down this time, and Gatwick only operated very few flights. Since we have a long drive to the airport in Sweden I kept updating the EasyJet flight status over and over again until just before we left, but it still said 'Scheduled' so off we went.
Checked in at Gothenburg and walked through the security, only to find out that the aircraft hadn't even left UK yet... Started to worry again, about the weather in LGW, and just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. My parents decided to hang around not far from the airport, in case they needed to come back and get us! Bless!
In the end we spent 3 1/2 hours in the airport just waiting (the plane finally dispatched from Gatwick), and then after boarding, unfortunately another near to 2 hours onboard since we had a bad slot into LGW...
Again, I didn't really mind, as long as we got there in the end, and we did.

All this wait cut into our resting time and we only got about 6 hours in the hotel, before it was time for the next hurdle, Heathrow.
They just re-opened LHR the morning of our flight (again, lucky!) and operated a very reduced schedule. Our flight was one of the few ones due to depart.
It was, as expected, total chaos in the terminal, pretty scary actually. I was afraid of loosing the kids so I told them to hold on to my jacket as we tried walking through the crowds. People everywhere, people sitting on the floor, sleeping under thermal blankets, people roaming around trying to find information about their flights - chaos.
We managed to check in and go through, and then it started again; on the board it just said "Please wait" next to our flight.
So we did.

We waited and waited and waited, and a little over an hour after we were actually due to depart, we got a gate, yay!
Waited a bit more at the gate, and then a bit more on the aircraft (they shut down the only operating runway for a while to check the break action...) and when we finally took off and the wheels went up - I didn't think about the 2 x 7-8 hour flights ahead, I just felt relief and I had big tears rolling down my cheeks.
We were going home.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

New record

It took us 36,5 hours to get home this time. It's a new record.
I'm not complaining, because we are home after all.

Sure, we got delayed both here and there and everywhere. It was a lot of waiting around involved, but it was a question of hours though - not days luckily.

We've had the most wonderful time in Sweden and now it's nearly Christmas, and we are home.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Supermarket Santa

Went to the supermarket today to get the last supplies to bring home to Brunei. They had a little Santa Grotto built up today, where you could take photos, meet Santa (who gave all the kids Lego!) and make Christmas cards and drawings.

They even had a life-size reindeer!

Lucas and Linnea created some beautiful Christmas drawings of Santa:

Nice Christmassy ending to our "Christmas time" here in Sweden!

We also went sledging one last time this afternoon, but it was only -4 today, so not as freezing cold as last time. We had quite a few good rides down the hill, where someone had build on the bump, so Lucas was happy!

I think we're nicely fueled up with Christmas, winter and snow now. At least in my heart the Christmas feeling is warmly buzzing like fireworks!