I wasn’t that keen on meeting new people in my life until my school changed it. My school was visited by students from Tokyo, in Japan. Initially, I didn’t really want to waste my time on guiding people around. Yet, I chose to. Probably because that month was fairly not a hectic month, so I gave it a try.
Each one of us that registered would have one foreigner student and they’d stay in our house for two days. Yakuza Zumi was with me. I was given a document of his profile before we met in person. Surprisingly, we had so much in common except that he’s allergic to house dusts which gave a little bit of heart attack to me and my family. My auntie, who’s living with my family is in fact has an OCD – where for her everything has to be clean, neat and perfect, but still we were worried about him. Nevertheless, he’s still alive when he left.
Zumi has a long hair that covered his forehead. His eyes are tiny. It was difficult to really look him in the eye. Zumi is such a polite sixteen year old boy and he can speak English in a same level as mine. His smile was the first thing that told me he’s very friendly which lifted up my eagerness on being his buddy for two days.
“ Hi! My name is Yakuza Zumi, and you can call me Zumi. Nice to meet you. “ enthusiastically he introduced himself to me.
“ Hi Zumi! It’s such a pleasure to meet you too! What a coincidence, our names are quite similar isn’t it? “ I pointed at my name tag with my thumb. His brow rose as he smirked with a deep chuckle rising in.
An hour passed by. And he already knew I’m a big fan of Justin Bieber and it was a relief that he liked his songs. Zumi and I talked about various stuff. He loves watching movies. Jurassic Park was one of his favourite movies, so that can tell you he likes dinosaurs. Apparently, he was uninterested once I mentioned my favourite movie; Harry Potter. I think, Zumi unintentionally ignored it and continued talking about dinosaurs. No, don’t talk about K-Pop. He’d be laughing at you.
My auntie drove us home accompanied by my brother, Muiz. She can’t speak English well and thought our new passenger would understand her mixed languages. So my brother and I had to translate everything she asked whilst she was driving. And translated Zumi’s answers for her.
As we arrived home, Muiz did his part. He showed him his bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room as well as introducing him to the whole family in unison. Zumi obviously was tired from school’s activities, so he took a siesta.
While I was showering and he was sleeping, the door bells sprang to life. My sister shouted from outside the bathroom to notify me that there’s people waiting outside the house, searching for me. I quickly finished my shower and dressed up. I opened the door,
“ Kon’nichiwa! Hi. “
Another heart attack.
“ Hi! Everyone and oh, hi Mr… Japanese.. Principal! ( I still feel really bad that I forgot his name ). Please come inside, I apologise if I took so long, I just had a shower.“ I welcomed them while my eyes were counting the visitors.
“ Ah yes we can tell that, sorry to bother. Thank you. “ the principal said with a bow, before adding;
“ I bet you are not expecting any visitors. We would just like to see one of the buddies’ place and we picked yours. Hope you and your family don’t mind us visiting. “ the principal said with a bow, again.
“ Not at all! “ I retorted as I nervously beckoned them to get inside the house.
Eight Japanese people were in the living room and only two local person were with them, my auntie and I. My sisters and brother helped me with the food and drinks at the kitchen.
The first topic we chatted was about Brunei. They were intrigued about the cultures and stated that Bruneian people are very welcoming and friendly. They revealed the first unique thing that brought them here; the Sultan of Brunei. They were curious about the way of living in Brunei under the Sultan. One of the them admitted that she admires the environment in Brunei; especially the nature, the quietness and suggested that she might stay a bit longer.
Out of the blue, the principal started talking about ghosts and directly asked me if the ghosts here are scary. I gave a long gaze at his stern face and whispered the word yes. He laughed at it and mentioned it was a joke. What a lucky for Japanese students to have him as their principal, I thought. The awkward silence crept back in until
“ Anyway, may we see Zumi’s room before we leave? “ asked the grown adult teacher, holding bunch of documents, looking professional.
“ Of course!—Please do line up everyone, because you might get lost. “ I amused. Everyone laughed. The awkwardness finally vanished.
“ How much for each ticket? “ the principal joked as he lined up with the other teachers.
“ A hundred USD! “ I bellowed.
Basically, I ended up being a tour guide in the house.
At seven pm, I woke Zumi up and informed him it was time for dinner; Ambuyat ( Brunei’s famous traditional food ). We demonstrated him on making Ambuyat and he was very focused as if he was the chef to make sure we did everything right. Once all the food were prepared, we served him the Ambuyat with its spicy sauce. Incredulity, he loved it. He finished it for minutes which really surprised me. It’s a rare thing to see foreigners to actually enjoyed and liked the food. I was getting really more comfortable with him since then. After we had our dinner, we drove to Bandar, the main city. We were planning to visit the Water Village, but unfortunately it was raining heavily.We brought him to the Burger King, in Bandar instead.
To our surprise, it was already ten pm and was still raining. Hence, we decided to go home. Inside the car, Zumi shared his experience of an earthquake in Japan. He said he was sleeping that time until a violent vibrant woke him up. He ran to the kitchen and hid under the table, stayed there for an hour and survived. He then asked me if I ever encountered such things in Brunei. I replied never and told him that thunderstorm is already scaring me. He patted my back, he was actually really laughing and exclaimed “ That’s nothing! “ and I showed him my pouting face.
The day ended up with watching anime at home.
The next day was the day of his leaving. I went to our school’s hall to join the farewell party with other students. We spent two hours playing traditional games together. Zumi was a quick learner, he comprehended things less than fifteen minutes. People was very impressed. The first game we played together was the “ Congkak “ ( a very well known game in Brunei ). I really shouldn’t put this here; but I lost on that game for three times, albeit I was really good at it when I was a kid. He didn’t give me any chance to have victory in my hands at all. Since then, he kept teasing me about losing on my own traditional game.
Zumi politely thanked our principal, me and my family for taking a good care of him. He mentioned about of how much he loved the Ambuyat and the good times we spent together. Despite that, he complained that two days weren’t enough for him. He asked me to keep in touch and promise him that I will visit him in Japan in the future. I nodded and smiled at him as everyone paid their attention to us.
Their principal also gave a speech about their visit at our house, stating they discovered more information about Brunei in just a short period of time. He ended the speech with telling everyone in the hall that I am qualified to be a tour guide and added, his school will be the first one to welcome me if I visit the country and murmured the ticket price will be more than just a hundred USD.
I never thought I would be able to get along with strangers so easily. Today, I always looking forward to meeting new people.
( Published in Borneo Bulletin )