Tuesday, 30 November 2010

26 Things - The Result of my Photographic Scavenger Hunt

At the beginning of November I posted about an exciting photographic challenge that I had discovered... and here are the results.

It's been SO fun, I've found myself thinking about it most days and it's really given me an impetus to take my camera out with me more often.  Some shots came very easily, I had an idea of what I wanted as soon as I read the list, but others have proved much more challenging - and I'll admit, a couple were taken today in a bit of a panic as I wanted to write this post this evening!

I was slightly surprised that the finished set don't include a single food-shot, but I hope that they provide a representative picture of my life here in Brunei.

So here we go...

1.  Tall.  2 of the 4 minarets of the Jame'Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque in Kiarong, Bandar Seri Begawan.

2. Amazing.  This was a difficult choice, but this, er, amazing dragonfly I snapped in the garden just won out.  I love the detail in its wings.

3. Round.  Our fairy-lights from Vietnam which make me smile whenever we turn them on!

4. Hidden.  This was taken on the same wander round the garden as the dragonfly shot.  I pulled back a leaf and found this beauty hidden behind it.

5. Green.  There seems to be green everywhere you look here in Brunei!  It's a country covered with jungle.  This however was in the garden (which backs onto jungle).

6. An Animal.  What else could I possibly choose for this one?!  This was taken shortly before Flat Stanley's traumatic accident occurred...

7. Dirty.  I had to choose between this and a photo of some lizard poop...!  Still this one gives me an opportunity to get on my soapbox.  I'm continually appalled by the state of the beaches here in South East Asia.  Much of the rubbish is undoubtedly from shipping, but much is also generated by people who simply can't be bothered to use bins.  And plastic bottles?  What an environmental curse. 

8. Early.  Rob was away last week, and I found my sleep-patterns disturbed while I was on my own (largely due to me staying up far too late!).  However, one morning I was awake early so just got up and got ready for work.  I usually get up at 6am (I have to start teaching at 7.25) but on this particular morning I was up and about at 5.45.  The moon was full and looked stunning.

9. Weather.  Not a photo of the weather, but a picture of an effect of the weather...  we have several of these around the school, and when an electric storm is brewing we hear a tannoy announcement telling us to get inside.  It's a little frightening the first time you hear it!

10. An Arrow.  Brunei and Malaysia are Muslim countries and we have got used to seeing these on hotel-room ceilings - the Kiblat, pointing West to Mecca.

11.  Curve.  The Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in central Bandar reflected in the top of a shiny curved bollard.  (Unflattering reflection of me taking said photo cunningly cropped out!)

12. Tomorrow.  Every afternoon as I'm leaving my classroom  I write the next day's date and a list of what we're doing on the board.  I took this today as I left my class...  tomorrow is December?!  How did that happen? 

13. Inside.  Frustratingly - but completely understandably - there's no photography allowed inside mosques.  I caught a tantalising glimpse through a partially open door as I was walking around the central mosque last week...  probably the closest I'll get to photographing the lavish interior.

14. A Ceiling.   Obscure...  but a feature of all our ceilings here - a fan.  We have 3 in the sitting room alone.

15. Watch Out.  A storm approaching, this evening actually.  It's what stopped me posting this earlier on, as as soon as the thunder started we unplugged the computer and modem.

16. Key.  My handful of keys, on my Mr Tickle keyring.  The keyring was given to me many years ago by a great friend.  It's lovely to have a daily reminder of that friendship, however far apart we are now.

17. Reflection.  This was the hardest one to choose - somehow I seemed to end up with lots of lovely reflection photos this month!  However, this one is specific to this month - a reflection of fireworks in the water on November 5th. The display was at the Yacht Club.

18. Track.  The tracks of a stray dog along the beach.  I was on the lookout for monkey tracks - they're great because you can see how the tail has dragged along in the sand - but didn't see any.  This would have been made by one of the many many wild dogs living here (dogs are considered unclean by Muslims so they are not common as pets here).

19. Framed.  A last-minute shot...  our wall of framed black and white photos, 2 by me, 2 by Tom and 2 others.

 20. Busy.  The ants here in Brunei are a real nuisance - the house is full of them.  However, these were in the garden and were quite captivating to watch as they went on their busy way.  It looked like they were carrying larvae of some sort, although I'm not sure.

21. Strange.  One of the funniest signs I've seen!  (On our school trip to the local Health Promotion Centre where, to be fair, there was a giant model set of teeth, just asking to be sat on!)

22.  Upside Down.  One of my favourite photos, taken when my class were playing with shadows during a Science lesson.

23. Spots.  I love spotty things and this is some of my Emma Bridgewater crockery.

24. Shoes.  No actual shoes here, but you have to remove them when you enter a mosque.  It wasn't prayer-time when I was there, hence the lack of footwear on display...

25. Weathered.  Beautifully weathered rock on Pantai Meragang (Crocodile Beach).

26. Sunday Morning.  Remembrance Sunday to be precise.  We attended an incredibly moving service on Labuan, a Malaysian island.

Phew!  So there's my November 2010, in 26 images.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Flat Stanley's Adventures in Brunei - Part 3

Yesterday I decided that Flat Stanley should see a little more of Brunei before he headed back to the UK.

He came down to central Bandar with me for a photoshoot in front of the mosque. 

This was about the only picture of him that I managed though, as I got distracted trying to get some more shots for the 26 Things project...  I'm nearly there and will post at the end of the month.

In the meantime, bye Stanley!  It's been wonderful having you here and I look forward to hearing about your return to the UK.

Flat Stanley's Adventures in Brunei - Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Flat Stanley accompanied me into school last week.  I had an inkling that he might be paying us a visit sometime this term, so I had got the book out of the school library in anticipation.  I told the class that we had a very special visitor, but I wanted to read them a story first... when we got to the part about Stanley being put into an envelope the penny dropped and they all guessed who was here in Brunei.

They were excited really - but some of them have very serious 'photo faces' which they put on the moment I get my camera out!  I've noticed this phenomenon before with children, but some of this lot are particularly funny.

They soon got into the swing of things though, suggesting where Flat Stanley should be photographed in order to show Polly in England what our school is like:

Eating our snacks (at 9.40am...  we're hungry by then as teaching starts at 7.25!)

In the Hall at playtime.

Playing Snakes and Ladders!

Skipping (he's in her hand!)

In the sandpit.

By the swimming pool.

Ready for our swimming lesson.

By the recycling bins - we're going for the Green Flag Award, which Polly's school has already got.

Going to our Music lesson.

Joining the other KS2 classes for Friday Assembly (with me trying to ignore the funny looks I was getting from my colleagues!)

And finally, in the classroom with me (slightly blurry photo - it's very amusing watching a 7-year-old struggle with a big SLR camera!  But he did really well.)

The class were nearly as amused by Flat Stanley's monkey-related injury as I was!  They were very taken with the idea of me writing to Polly with all these photos, and some of them decided - with no prompting from me - to make little information posters about our school to put in with the letter.  How sweet!

The funniest thing was this morning though - we had a new girl join the class.  She's come from England, and I overheard one of the girls asking her "Do you know Polly?" 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Flat Stanley visits Brunei

Are you acquainted with Flat Stanley?  If you're a parent in North America I can pretty much guarantee that you have heard of him, and you've probably met him too.

Flat Stanley is the hero of a series children's books written by Jeff Brown.  Stanley Lambchop was just an ordinary boy until one night a bulletin board fell off his bedroom wall and squashed him.  Stanley was unhurt, but flat - half an inch thick.  After the initial understandable concern of his family, Stanley soon discovered that being flat had its advantages, and the books tell of Stanley's many adventures.

One of the benefits of Stanley's diminished size is that he can be posted to visit his friends (in a special envelope, along with a carton of milk and an egg-salad sandwich made with thin bread!), which is 'much less expensive than a train or an aeroplane ticket'.

This idea generated a huge Flat Stanley project in the USA and Canada, and it was something that caught my eye when I was living in Ontario...

So, when I was teaching in rural Oxfordshire earlier this year, I set up my own Flat Stanley project.  I read the book to my class (Year 2 and 3), then gave them all pictures of Stanley to colour.  I laminated them, and sent them home with covering letters as a homework project - send Stanley somewhere... anywhere... and let's see what happens. 

Well, I wouldn't ever have imagined getting such an incredible response!  Within weeks we were having Stanleys sent back to school from all over the UK, and all over the world - Australia, China, Hong Kong, Poland, France, to name but a few.  All the Stanleys came back with postcards of where he'd been, but many of the recipients had gone above and beyond the call of duty and sent Stanley back to our class laden with gifts (the clotted cream fudge from Cornwall was particularly popular!), and often with photo albums documenting his adventures.  We could just tell that everyone had had so much fun, and it was incredibly exciting (and educational) for the children (OK, and for me!)

When I left the UK to come to Brunei I gave all of my class a slip of paper with my new address on it, and told them that I would love to have Flat Stanley to stay with me.  It's taken a few months, but last week Stanley arrived, courtesy of the lovely Polly.

I was so excited!  I immediately started planning photo opportunities...  Imagine how delighted I was to wake up on Wednesday (which was a public holiday) to hear the monkeys leaping about on our roof.  "Perfect" I thought, a quintessentially Bruneian photo-shoot - Stanley with the monkeys.

This proved easier said than done, but I managed a few with the monkeys in the background.

Pretty soon one of the monkeys came to sit on the car, a place where they often like to play.  Even better!  This'll be a great photo...  Smile Stanley!!!

Now if you know the monkeys, I'm sure you can guess what happened next...

At this point I'm shaking with laughter and trying to snap away as Stanley becomes closely acquainted with this Bruneian resident...

But then things got a little nasty...

Oh crap!  Now I'm clapping my hands and shouting "NO!" at the monkey, who seemed utterly unperturbed by my distress.  Every time I took a step closer, he simply took a step back, with Stanley still in his mouth.  I had visions of him leaping up onto the roof with him, and poor Polly would never see Stanley again.

Suddenly I had a brainwave, the ignoring-bad-behaviour-strategy!  Gritting my teeth I turned my back and began to walk away.  Sure enough - and to my huge relief - the monkey dropped Stanley and leapt off into a nearby tree.  Phew!

Stanley had a lucky escape, although tragically he lost a leg as a result of the incident.  A quick trip to the Pendlenton ER soon had him sorted out though.  I'm hoping Polly will see the funny side - after all, she probably owns the only Flat Stanley in the world to have his leg chewed off by a monkey!

We took Stanley to the Yacht Club to soothe his shattered nerves.  Nothing like a sunbathe by the sea to help one recuperate.

We retreated to the shade of the palm trees when it got too hot.

We then took Stanley out for lunch.  No expense spared for our special guest - we had a $1 lunch at one of the food stalls in Serasa!

It was genuinely delicious though - especially the rose-syrup/condensed milk/crushed ice ABC drink (although Stanley was less than impressed with the grass-jelly and sweetcorn at the bottom of the cup.  Definitely an acquired taste).

On our return home Stanley helped me in the kitchen.  We made cookies and baked bread.

Stanley got to lick the beaters.

Later that week Stanley came to school with me...  but that's for another post!

I'm so pleased that Stanley survived the monkey attack with no mental scars, he seems as cheerful as ever...

To be continued.