Brunei Borneo

In September 2009 I got an email from a lady called Fiona at a school called Jerudong International School. She asked me if I'd like to visit her school and read some poems out and generally mess about like I normally do. I said sure, I'd love to pop along, where is your school? She sent an email back saying it's a lovely school, with great pupils and it's in Brunei on the island of Borneo.

Borneo, Borneo, Borneo. It might as well have been Mars. Borneo is a place I have only seen on the telly, in maps in atlases and in films. It's the kind of place Michael Palin goes to, and the kind of place where David Attenborough climbs trees to find monkeys. It's not the kind of place where I go - but go I did!

I took Jackie and my two sons, Ben and Jack, and in February 2010 we got on two planes - not at the same time, don't be silly - and after flying for 16 hours we got there.

It was hot.

It was bright.

It was Borneo.

I had a great welcoming committee of Fiona, Angela and Sal who were all wearing fantastic That Poetry Bloke t-shirts (I really should have had mine on). They took us to an absolutely amazing hotel. It was a 6-star hotel, which means it actually owns 6 of its own stars in the sky! Jensen Button, the Formula 1 bloke, had stayed there a couple of weeks before. Me and racing car drivers - how cool is that!!

I told people I was Jensen Button, but no-one believed me!

The first school I visited was the International School of Brunei (ISB), the second was Panaga School and the third (and Fiona's) school was Jerudong International School (JIS) where I did three days. The highlights are too many to mention but a few of the moments that stay with me are:

  • how warm the South China Sea was.
  • how friendly and lovely the people were in the schools.
  • the amazing pair of hornbill birds I saw in a tree at Panaga School.
  • how big the foyer was at the hotel.
  • the amazing reception I got at Jerudong - Elvis truly was in the building!
  • the great welcome the pupils at ISB gave me on my first day, I felt at home from the first minute.
  • the water village at Kampong Ayer.
  • the fantastic trips organised by Fiona, Liz and Sal.
  • the brilliant food on the last day at JIS - thank you Mrs Zainab for your curry puffs - keep dancing sister!!
  • the solid gold dome of the Mosque.
  • the proboscis monkeys in the trees and the orangutans at KK.

It was an absolutely amazing trip. It's hard to believe I've ever been. I'll never forget it, and who knows, I might get asked back one day. It's a bit mind-boggling to think that someone over 7000 miles away might be reading one of my books right now!!!

That Poetry Bloke with the students from Brunei

That Poetry Bloke with the students from Brunei

That Poetry Bloke in Brunei

That Poetry Bloke with guard from Brunei

That Poetry Bloke in Brunei

"Craig´s visit during February 2010 has to be the most amazing author/ visits I have hosted in the last 10 years. Getting our students and staff off curriculum and into poetry has been so wonderful. Craig really went the extra mile; he covered Reception to Year 9 and captivated his audience completely. Staff have said to me they will no longer deliver their own poetry lessons in the same way! What a great outcome. He has held down so many interesting jobs in his life, including being a standup comedian, so has a vast repertoire of jokes, anecdotes and ideas, that we could have had him for over a week. 3 days was not enough. I had Senior students wanting to come and listen to him, sing his songs, chat with him. I really think there was so much more we could have done. Craig did everything from reciting his poems, making new poetry the children had written into songs, he plays guitar, helps children to understand what inspiration and what the love of writing truly is. He did fantastic poetry writing workshops with the middle school and I am now continuing on the energy he left behind by putting together a poetry collection. He did an amazing parent and kiddie’s afternoon in the Junior library and had the parents singing and reciting. We have many ESL families in our community and I have had many parents come in the last 2 weeks to tell me how magical it is to have their children recite poems and sing at home. Craig is really easy to host and just thrives on the joy of his job. If you only have money for one person a year, like we do, do your school community a big favour…"

Fiona Mulvaney, JIS, Brunei