Finding positivity amid challenging times

Rizal Faisal

Amid the constraints caused by the need to contain COVID-19, the public has had to adapt to changes and limitations in their routines and plans. While these changes have posed a challenge, members of the public have managed to find some positives.

One family whose daughter planned to get married had to cancel her wedding, as the government had suspended applications.

The bride-to-be however shared with the Bulletin that there are blessings in disguise in all this and said she had been caught off-guard and overwhelmed by the positive responses she received from vendors involved in her wedding.

“My wedding was planned for the weekend of April 10. Given the short notice of the Nikah postponement, I think this is the worst news for every bride-to-be! Thankfully I’d been preparing myself for the worst case scenario so it didn’t surprise me too much,” said Miss A, who wished to remain anonymous.

“Upon receiving the official news, I had to inform all my wedding vendors and the responses I received were generally very positive. Despite the short notice, they were extremely kind in their responses, which came promptly and professionally. Most were very willing to accommodate to any of my requests without applying any additional penalties,” she said, noting that she went through several date and venue changes since the onset of COVID-19.

“I know other brides who experienced the same thing too, and it’s a relief to be given such flexibility. I don’t think we would get similar treatment if we were anywhere else in the world!”

Miss A said that she did not find any ‘price gougers’ among the vendors for her wedding, including a wedding dais vendor, makeup artists, photographers, videographers, decorators and dress designers.

“They are small business owners. I know for some, it is their sole source of income. In difficult times like these, they genuinely tried to help in any way they could as they empathise with our situation.

“They were very accommodating, by offering alternative solutions such as changing event dates, which means they had to defer their income this month to the new date.

“I think if there’s one piece of advice I can give other brides out there, it is to try and return the same compassion to our local business owners. One way is to refrain from being exploitative by demanding a refund and realise it is a difficult time for them because most will be out of business or unemployed due to COVID-19,” she added.

A local student doing a Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) programme at City University of London shared her experience of being in to isolation after arriving in Brunei on March 22.

“Everyone was kind and caring,” she said, requesting not to be named. “The place was well taken care of and everyone involved always made us feel safe.

“The support and commitment from everyone at the isolation centre was overwhelming and I can’t thank everyone enough. They regularly checked on us and constantly made conversation and guided us.

“I am utterly grateful for their service. They took care of us as if we were their own family. I am forever blessed and thankful for the people stationed at the isolation centre and His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Government for providing us transportation back to Brunei, a comfortable place, food and support for 14 days,” she said.

Another student to speak on her mandatory isolation experience was a Bruneian student pursuing postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom (UK).

“Coming home in light of the current circumstances was not the original plan as I still had exams to sit for, as my university had yet to update all students on the condition of our exams,” she said. “I decided to come home at the last minute on March 21.

“I felt an incredible surge of comfort knowing there were people out there taking care of us from the United Kingdom all the way to Brunei. Upon arrival, my friends and I waited to board a bus to take us to our designated isolation centre. It was a weird feeling, knowing we wouldn’t be picked up by our families or guardians. But nonetheless, the frontliners warmly welcomed us and make sure we were tended to well.

“My friends and I were brought to Higher Hotel in Kiulap. Every morning I would wake up to a doorbell ring for breakfast. The volunteers would always kindly apologise for having to place my food package on the floor, as they had to socially distance from us.

“Every day I would receive a telephone call from a member of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Education (MoE) enquiring about my welfare such as ‘how are you feeling?’. I looked forward to it, as well as the occasional ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to the kind volunteers delivering our packages. I found myself looking forward to these interactions during my isolation period especially while being alone for two weeks. I was also busy on FaceTime and Netflix Party with my friends and family.”

“During the two weeks, I kept myself busy with some revision, but mostly Netflix and YouTube videos. For me, the isolation period went by fast as each day merged with the next. At times, watching the news and seeing updates on the virus elsewhere around the world was quite scary but the comfort of knowing I was home helped to rationalise a lot of my thoughts. I empathise with students and others who could not travel back to their home country due to lockdowns around the world and am very grateful for the opportunity that my home country has given to its people. I cannot help but think of the families of the frontliners who have dedicated their time to helping all of us out; I cannot think of ways to repay them for their hardwork.”

Her mandatory isolation period ended on April 5. “The excitement I felt was unreal and I could not wait to be reunited with my family. When I went to check out from the hotel, I finally had the chance to have a longer conversation with the volunteers I came across during my stay at the hotel. They helped me transport my suitcases from the outside of my hotel room all the way to the car.

“From the bottom of my heart I thank His Majesty, the frontliners, MoH and MoE for their help, time and efforts. Thank you so much for bringing us home and for making us feel at home in our self-isolation centres. Thank you for keeping us safe.”

Additionally, a family who travelled to the UK to attend their brother’s call to the Bar, before the travel restrictions were put in place, flew back with the second batch of students’ flight from the UK.

Mr H returned with his wife, two children, a brother who got called to the Bar, a sister still undergoing a programme in the UK and their father who travelled between the UK, Ireland and Greece.

As they were undergoing isolation at home, the family shared their experiences with the Bulletin by phone.

The family lauded the government, particularly the MoH, in overcoming the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Despite small hiccups upon arrival at the Brunei International Airport such as confusing information, the family saw past the flaws and observed the efficiency within the government in an emergency situation.

“We are thankful to the government for its swift response, and especially for the option of self-isolating at home as our father is of old age and the young kids could be monitored more safely and easily at home,” said Mr H.