YSEALI U.S. Fellow Summer 2017 Cohort:
Sunday August 6, 2017
Travel Day – Hong Kong to Brunei
I was introduced early to Brunei hospitality. Flight was exactly one movie length long but was surprised to be served with a hot meal. Landed in Brunei International Airport. YSEALI Alumni and Brunei Environmental Officer, Khaliq Lokman, picks me up from Brunei International Airport. Immediately whisked away to the beautiful Rizqun Hotel in Gadong. The Rizqun is connected to a mall which locals just call “The Mall.” Khaliq took me to the food court an introduced me to my first Brunei meal. I had the meal “tapao” or as takeout and ate in my hotel room – spicy and delicious!
Monday August 7, 2017
Introduced to JASTRE aka Brunei’s Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation under the Ministry of Development. Met with and was briefed on the many divisions within the Department: Environmental Planning and Management, Landscape, Parks and Recreation, and Pollution Control which included Waste Management. The Department is acting under the Environmental Protection and Management Order of 2016. The Department is currently developing regulations to expand on the 2016 order. The Department has only been in existence for 14 years and under an official Order in less than 2 years. The Department had startup feel which was very exciting. These are the men and women who will shape their environmental law.
Local beach and prepaid electricity
Had lunch with Khaliq and his wife. Visited a local beach. Beaches in Brunei are beautiful but underutilized. Nearby the beach, I was introduced to Bruneian durian. Fought the urge to have a bite. Returned to the hotel. Later that afternoon, Khaliq invited me to his home. In Brunei, housing is subsidized in great scale. The government builds the homes. Citizen would apply for housing. Once approved, the citizen would be placed in a home in based on their current salaries. Their leases are also subsidized. At Khaliq’s home, I also learned of pre-paid electricity which is common in Brunei. Electricity is purchased and renewed like minutes for a calling card.
Tuesday August 8, 2017
Taman Jubli Perak – City in the Garden
Visited Taman Jubli Perak (Silver Jubilee Park) with Khaliq. Learned of Bandar’s concept of City in the Garden which echoes of Cedar Hill’s motto of being a City in a Park. Many parks and monuments throughout Brunei tend to commemorate the Royal family. In this case, the Park commemorated the 25th anniversary of rule by the current Sultan. The park also encourages families and recreation. Within a shout, you will find a playground and walking trail.
Taman Jubli Perak
Taman Peranginan Tasek Lama
Visited Taman Peranginan Task Lama. The park consisted of several trails which lead to a waterfall. The park is used to promote outdoor recreation which included paved trails, a playground, tai chi areas, workout areas and acupressure gardens. I learned that acupressure gardens were not for the soft of foot. Walking towards the waterfall had signs explaining why Brunei had a reputation for cleanliness.
Eating with my hands and the US Embassy
I had lunch at a local restaurant. Khaliq made sure I had the “banana leaf special.” It was quite an experience. Eating with your hands is much more difficult than I expected. After lunch, I had a meeting with US Embassy staff: Director of Public Affairs Catherine Muller, Cultural Affairs Coordinator Shova Thapa and Cultural Affairs Specialist Billah Hasan.
ASEAN 50 Year Anniversary Celebration
Khaliq Lokman and Landscape Designer Joey Han took me to the evening event. Brunei is very proud of their ASEAN membership and commitment. Outside of Brunei Royal Regalia Building which was recently announced as an ASEAN landmark, Brunei celebrated the ASEAN 50 year anniversary. The commemoration included speeches from government officials, lanterns representing all 10 ASEAN members and dance performances. I was introduced to monsoon rains for the first time walking back to our car but got a great opportunity to speak to the performers. Everyone is so proud of their Bruneian heritage!
Wednesday August 9, 2017
Pollution Control and Waste Management
Met with the Pollution Control Division and taken to a collection center, a transfer station and local landfill along with attachment students. In Brunei, third year undergraduate students are required to intern in their area of study. All of the attached students were pursuing environmental studies.
In Brunei, house to house trash pickup is a new concept that the government is encouraging but having limited success. House to house pickups have a subscription fee. The alternative is free. The majority of Bruneians take their trash to communal collection centers where the trash is compacted. Residents who separate their recyclables could place their recyclables in separate bins nearby. Twice a day, these collection centers are emptied by contractors. The collected trash are taken to a transfer station where the trash is compacted again and placed in larger containers to be taken to the landfill. We viewed this process is reverse order but I will display this in correct order. Somewhere in there we had lunch at a local restaurant around noon. JASTRE staff then introduced me to “high tea” which took place around 4:30 pm. Bruneians like to eat. I learned that Bruneians have breakfast, brunch, lunch, high tea, dinner and after dinner snack. No picture. Just imagine me being very full. This became my dinner.
Selfie with JASTRE staff. The wonderfully kind maintenance contactor is to the far right:
The transfer station collected 350 tons daily but handle up to 500 tons. Compacted trash goes directly into transport containers. Brunei does not have a domestic MERF. As a trial, the transfer station once separated recyclables. You can see the separator conveyor in the back of their facility:
The landfill was constructed in 18 months from 2010 and 2011, cost over $66 million BND, and estimated to have a life of 15 years. The landfill is tacking issues with floatables:
Thursday August 10, 2017
Parks and Recreation in Pekan Tutong (Town of Tutong)
Met with Chief Technical Assistant Naila in Pekan Tutong. She brought me to 7 gardens which she maintains.
Difficult to describe this beautiful park. In the distance is the ocean. Directly behind me is a brackish water river. In addition to having to work with a limited budget, P&C staff constantly tackle the saltwater ocean air which deteriorate their assets.
The Tutong Nursery supplies green decorations to public events including many Royal family events. The plant species were selected by the Sultan for their beauty.
Taman Rekreasi Sungai Basong is a wetlands park.
Brunei is very proud of their heritage. At Selemat Datang you will find an ethnic diversity park showcasing different types of traditional houses and a traditional medicinal garden with plants to treat fever to scorpion bites.
After lunch I was invited to visit a local mosque. Local imams lead the daily prayers. The Bruneian government writes the weekly sermons and hands out the same sermon to all mosques to be read.
After the mosque visit, we visited Tasek Merimbun, the largest lake in Brunei, and Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park. At the Park, I met Tuan Amir whose passion and pride for his heritage was contagious. The locals volunteers to help build a heritage site. The park is also protected for the white collared bat and clouded leopard.
On our way back, we visited a community library. As a culture shock, I learned that community libraries are not as popular as libraries tend to be in the US. Regardless, their 70,000 book collection library was beautiful and impressive.
We also visited Universiti Brunei Darussalam.
For dinner, I was brought to the Gadong Night Market. The market is very popular and feels like the Texas State Fair. I tried red durian for the first time.
Friday August 11, 2017
Farmers Market and Kampong Ayer
The Farmers Market is only open on Friday mornings. The popularity can be seen by the traffic jam going far beyond the market parking lot onto the street.
You can find the “grow local” trend come to life. From local green to local meat, you can find it there.
In Brunei, the weekend is split between Friday and Sunday to accommodate Friday prayers. Saturday is a work day. However, Brunei is very open to other religions. I visited a local Buddhist temple, a Protestant church and a Catholic church.
Following Friday prayers which lasts from 11:30 am to past 2 pm, we visited Kampong Ayer, the Venice of the East. I was amazed at how sustainable the village was built. All city services were brought to sea: water and sewer, fire, police, schools, parks and clinics.
Typical home with water and sewer services:
Following Kampong Ayer, I was introduced to a traditional Bruneian dinner which included the experience of using traditional Bruneian chopsticks.
Saturday August 12, 2017
Landscape Design and Maintenance
I visited Landscape Designer Joey Han and her staff. I started with a briefing which included a lecture from myself on how local government worked in the US. I learned about the top down approach to governance in Brunei which contrasted greatly from the servant leadership bottom up approach to governance in Cedar Hill. It turned into a great discussion which included some attachment students.
Selfie with Joey and Rody at lunch. She wanted to showcase the lighter side of Bruneian meals. Thank you for thinking of my health!
We visited a converted landfill park following lunch. I learned of their methods to combat vandalism.
Afterwards, I attended a staff meeting. The meeting was in both English and Malay. I enjoyed the challenge of filling in between the lines. The first part of the meeting was planning for a community service event that would take place the following day. The second part of the meeting was over department strategy. The style and tone of the meeting was very open, inviting input and collaboration.
Sunday August 13, 2017
I saw community service in action. The entire department came together on their day off and without the use of any government assets to help a former 70 year old employee in need. Staff brought their own brushes, brooms, paint, machetes and chainsaws to clean and renovate a home. Everyone from the top down including the Director got their hands dirty. It was amazing!
Duy Duc Vu, Environmental Manager, Public Works
City of Cedar Hill, TX