This is another reflexion that I wrote during the lead up to Live Below the Line.
Living in Brunei gave me some truly wonderful experiences which definitely shaped who I am today and my motivations for the future.
I spent five years living in the tiny country of Brunei where I was fortunate to travel often to countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam and witness the disparity between how we live in Australia and their lives. However, what struck me most was how happy and generous people were.
One of my most vivid memories was travelling with a couple who did a lot of work with the Penan Tribes of Borneo. They would drive and visit them, give out glasses and rudimentary eye tests to the elderly, clothes and school supplies for the kids, arrange medical attention if necessary and check that their water pipes and those kind of things were working well. They always packed their own food as they didn’t want to encroach on people who hunted and had some subsistence farming (mostly tapioca or rice) as their main staples of food.
We arrived at one tribe and the first image I remember was a wild boar, recently killed, hanging up in front of one of the longhouses. By word of mouth they’d heard that we were coming and went out to hunt this boar for us. I didn’t even like eating meat and yet in that kind of situation you had to take seconds of everything and say how ‘lebi gian’ (very good) it was. These people had next to nothing, and yet went out of their way to make sure we were fed and comfortable. It struck me that how happy and generous these people were while they lived in what the majority of us would call an impoverished lifestyle. We spent one night with these people, and though we didn’t even speak the same language, the next morning they gave me handmade bracelets and a special tapioca eating ‘spoon’ made from bamboo and asked me to remember them – as if I couldn’t! Whenever I feel like throwing a #FirstWorldProblemstantrum I think back to these people who were so independent and proud of their lives. It’s these kind of people I do LBL for, not to patronise them with charity handouts, but to give them the tools they need to start or continue thriving.