I was curiously surprised when my friends from the Toastmasters club asked me if I would like a conduct a workshop for kids in “Syria.” What a profound initiative and a human endeavor to go out and help kids in the war-stricken country, and I was going to be a part of it! My thoughts were running wild thinking about kids and the people of Syria. However, my balloon of imagination was soon punctured when a fellow Toastmaster informed that we will carpool from the Empire hotel.
***My friends meant ‘Seria’, not ‘Syria’.***
Seria is very much a part of Brunei. The name ‘Seria’ came from the name given by the British authorities sometime around 1929, which known as the South East Reserved Industrial Area. Seria is first place in the Borneo region which Japanese invaded during WWII. Seria is the heart of the oil industry in Brunei, and also the site of the first commercial onshore oilfield discovered in Brunei. It is a town in Kuala Belait (KB) district of Brunei and is 70 km away by road from the city center of Bander Seri Begawan (BSB). Similar to other public activities elsewhere in Brunei, in Seria too, recreational public activities are limited within the two clubs, Panaga club, and the Brunei Shell Corporation club. Other activities such as fishing and windsurfing is carried out in Jubilee recreational park.
OK. Now I know that Seria is a part of Brunei.
I waited at the Empire club for my friend to pick me up. Within 10 minutes she showed up and we were soon on the highway towards KB. She talked about her personal background and overall different Toastmasters club in Brunei. She was a proficient driver. Throughout the ride, she was talking, keeping me informed and at the same time keeping the eyes on the road. I felt as if I had known her for years, although it was the first time I was speaking with her in person. Although it was a hot afternoon, the climate was pleasant. I was enjoying the views of unobstructed clear sky and greenery around. The food was waiting for us at the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC) auditorium where a series of workshops in public speaking was organized with joint efforts from Malayali-Indian (MA) community and OTTERS Toastmasters’ club of Brunei. I thought of taking a look at my notes. I put my hand in the bag, it was all wet. Oh my God: Water had slipped through my water bottle whose cap had come loose. What left of my ink-written notes was just a limp piece of paper which looked blue all over, destroying my hours of work. I almost thought of quitting. How could I deliver my speech without notes? But my friends encouraged me to go on.
It was my first experience with an MA community in Brunei. There is a huge Indian community from all over India settled in Seria working for Shell with the total number of three hundred households, according to the organizers. Our workshop was attended by members only from MA community, originating from Kerala, a southern state in India. They were amazing. Although the workshop was catered to an age group of 10-15-year-old, parents also turned up for the workshops and participated in some of the interactive sessions. My initial concern was whether we will be able to keep the kids engaged for almost three hours. But these concerns soon vanished seeing the kids so attentive and taking in every bit of presentation. Some Toastmasters shared their journey and how they benefited from toastmasters club. A variety of workshops topics were shared starting from the ice-breaking session with the participants, voice projection, English as a second language and ending with table topics.