Dear Visitors and Travelers:

I traveled to Indonesia and
Brunei Darussalam for three weeks from January
21 through February 6, 2005. I went to my island to specifically observed the
Islamic Festival of Sacrifice (
Eid al-Adha) with my parents, in which we
sacrificed a cow; and together with our neighbors and their animal sacrifices,
we distributed the meat to all residents in the whole neighborhood and
beyond. I went to Brunei to acquire some important Malay literatures that
relate to my work, as well as some books in Jawi, to brush up my language.
And, of course, to also observe the life of the Bruneian Malays.
You need Java to see this applet.

Friday, February 4, 2005, standing by the city gate, going to Masdjid Omar Ali
Syaifuddin, far behind in the background. Wherever I travel, whether or not in
Muslim or non-Muslim countries, especially if I travel with my children, I always
make it a point to find and visit one or more masdjids in the city that I happen
to be. It becomes an opportunity for me to meet with the local Muslims there,
and see how they are doing.

Thursday, February 3, 2005; I am touring the Kampung Ayer (Water Village) in
Bandar Seri Begawan, where people have their houses above the river, as you
can see. The residents would have flower pots, dry their clothes by hanging
them under the sun, just like people living in the land, as you can see in my
background. From the city, I took a boat to come to this village, which is located
on the other side of the river. Bandar Seri Begawan itself is a quiet city,
especially if compared with Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong or
Taipei; but Kampung Ayer is especially very tranquil, the cool breeze combined
with the ripples of the river and out open space, are very soothing, which make
Brunei an ideal place to rest after a hard work in a busy city or country. I am
sure these sounds of nature become a lullaby for the residents at night.
This is the family that I am visiting in the Water Village. The interior of the house
with its comfort and conveniences make me forget that I am actually above the
river! The house is filled with any modern equipments/furnitures, such as
television, refrigerator, and computer. I was invited to see the whole house,
from the living room, the family room to the kitchen in the back. I was served with
drink and varieties of home-made cakes and cookies. When I was in Brunei, it
was barely past one month after the powerful earthquake and tsunami had struck
the province of Aceh, Indonesia, on December 26, 2004. Although Brunei is far
from the disaster area, I did ask the gentleman beside me if the tsunami had not
caused any fear in Kampung Ayer for living in houses above water. He said only
that the tsunami has made people think that they should build their houses much
higher from  the water level, using taller pillars; but they have never thought of
moving anywhere else.
Just like we have streets on land, the Kampung Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan also
does. The 'street' or 'bridge' that connects from one house to another is made of
wooden plank. The residents park their cars on the street on the other side of the
river. In the morning, when they go to work, they would sail the wide Brunei river
in a speedboat to reach the other side of the river bank; then they would drive
their cars to their offices. In the afternoon, they would park their cars back on the
street, then take the speedboat to return to their water village. Although the
government of Brunei has offered free land and subsidized housing if the
residents are willing to move to the land, these people rejected. They say: "This
has been our home for generations, from our 'nenek-moyang' (ancestors) to our
children now. Our water village is to us, like your own land village." And indeed,
at the Kampung Ayer, they have their own school, hospital, market, mosque, etc..
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