The other day one of my junior colleagues, AA* mentioned about how difficult it was to meet someone. He complained or rather commented that it's pretty hard to meet nice girls in Brunei as we don't have the equivalent of pubs or clubs or society meeting places etc. His point was that it is difficult for a boy to meet a girl and vice versa in Brunei's society. This view coming from a young cute looking guy who graduated from a top 10 UK university, with the pay to match it and drives to work in a luxury sports car sounded a tad too pessimistic. (Phone number available on request!)
But in some respect this is a universal view. I remembered way back in mid 1980s when I was still an undergraduate, one Malaysian friend was telling me how worried he was. He had already spent close to 5 years in England and was about to graduate and he hasn't met anyone yet. He said that the only place to meet anybody was at college or university and if you did not meet anyone, then your chances become slimmer. In the working life, your circle of friends become smaller as compared to at university. I thought then it was the other way round. Working life would provide you with all the friends there is.
So come working life in Brunei, it was indeed difficult but to me it was more circumstancial rather than anything else. The mid 1980s were also a different time when compared to now, things were a little bit quieter. There was no Coffeezones, Coffeebeans etc, so there was really not much place for you to hang around in. But again circumstances. I did meet many acquaintances during the Youth Ship program - both fellow participants and those were just interested in it. Until that point, I just did not realise there was this group of very 'potentially interesting' young people who I should get to know and for them to get to know me. So, there are therefore opportunities. One has to look for it. Clubs and associations are available. Even evening classes are also opportunities. Where there is a will, there is a way kind of thing. The Malay proverb works well here - 'kalau hendak 1,000 jalan, kalau tak ndak, 1,000 dalih' - 'if you want, there are 1,000 ways, if you do not want, there are 1,000 excuses'. I still believe it's up to the individual to make their ways.
Another junior colleague, ZH* said that currently the only places for them young people to get to know others was through the internet. The friendsters, the multiplys, the blogspots etc. I am not a child of the internet world. By the time the internet existed, I was happily married but I remembered its potential - it was the internet world which kept my wife and I communicated when I was in the USA - e-mails only as skype was not yet available then. To me, we should make use of whatever opportunity is available. If the internet is it, then use it. I see the friendsters, the multiplies, the blogspots and other places where theoretically one can 'meet' each other. I often passed by the baseball games at JPPC which is another potential area as well.
But having said that, there is a potential timebomb. According to another worried colleague at MOE, there are hundreds of unmarried female education officers and trained teachers throughout the school system. He said we should try to match these groups of unmarried people as otherwise we would have poorer quality children and less population growth. He insisted that we should help them. I remembered that at one stage, the Social Affairs Unit (now the Community Development Department - JAPEM) did go along the line of the SDU and SDS in Singapore where they try to match individuals by holding 'singles' gathering. I don't know how successful the gathering was and how many times it was held. Perhaps if there is indeed a need to have it, maybe someone can contact the Director of JAPEM and indicate to her that there is a need to reactivate that program.
In Malaysia, sometime in May, the issue of 'nikah misyar' became a big issue. According to a Islamic Studies Academy Professor at Universiti Malaya, misyar wedding allows for husbands not to have to be responsible to provide upkeeping for the physical upkeep of the wife but only for the upkeep of the 'batin' (I tried translating that word but I get all sorts of rather too interesting words). Theoretically this subject matter blows up big in Malaysia because men seemed to be given a greener light to take on another wife, this time more professional ones and yet not have to be responsible for her financial upkeep. He argued this would help solve the many unmarried women problem in Malaysia. That opinion has been discussed and rebutted ever since then and if you want to know more, you can always google it (nikah misyar).
Anyway, I have absolutely no real thoughts about these issues other than to tell you the thinking of others. The issue of not just unmarried women but also unmarried men is is a subject matter which may have great implications for the growth of Brunei and yet be too sensitive to be discussed in open forums. Perhaps readers may have lots of opinions on it.