Thursday, August 03, 2006

Log/Pic 17 Brunei

So this is Brunei. Actually the official name is Negara Brunei Darussalam. It is one of the smallest countries in the world and is located along the northern tip of Borneo. It is 67% Muslim and here are a few of the mosques we visited.
This country is run by a sultan named Sir Hassanal Bolkiah. At some point in the 1980's, he was the richest man in the world-primarily from oil. His picture hangs in hotels, restuarants and pretty much every building we entered. His photo also hangs on the outside of many major building and on quite a few billboards. He takes care of his people and I have never heard a negative thing about him; in fact, he was the topic of many conversations. They were all celebrating his 60th birthday while we were there.
This mosque was on the river front, as were several others.
This is a section of the river village. We took river taxis like this one to to the villages and walked on the docks talking to people, admiring their houses, and watching boat-makers. We stumbled upon what looked like a school, so we went in.
And this is what we saw; a group of Muslim children attending a short ceremony. The current headmaster (the one who invited us to attend the ceremony), was retiring, and a new one (the man who invited us to share a meal with them in what appeared to be the teachers lounge), was taking over.
One man took photos of the ceremony so we thought it would be o.k. too.
Aside from the school being on stilts over a river surrounded by dilapidated river houses, the inside looked very similar to the schools we know!
As the students filed out after the event, each took the retiring headmaster's hand and placed their forehead on it. At first glance I thought they were kissing his hand.
The first half of the student's day is spent in regular studies. Then they leave for two hours and upon return, they study religion until 5:30. Note the boys up front facing their religious instructor and the girls in back BEHIND PARTITIONS!

Punda and I took a ferry back and forth from Malaysia to Laboun Island, and then another to Brunei. The ferry ride alone was great, so were the river taxi rides throughout Brunei. We went to the American Embassy there so I could get more pages for my "new" passport. It was my first U.S. embassy-although I didn't see any Americans there. It was great to visit a country where everyone loved and respected their leader.

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