We here at Neue believe that every person out there has a story to tell.
This week, we’ll find out What’s Neue with Natalie Gowers-Barnes, the Deputy High Commissioner and currently Acting High Commissioner at the British High Commission in Brunei Darussalam. She’s been living in the Sultanate since July 2018.
The Neue team recently sat down with her for a #Neue9to5 interview at the British High Commission in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Check out the video below to find out what she had to say:
The full transcript of our interview with Natalie is as follows:
Part 1 Of #Neue9to5 Interview: First 9 Questions
- Our past #Neue9to5 interviewee, Dr Helena Hurairah, said you have an inspiring educational story. Tell us about it.
I think Dr Helena may have been referring to the fact that I left school when I was 16 and I started working full time.
And since I’ve been working full time for many years now, I’ve continued to study for a full degree and a Master’s Degree.
And have never really stopped learning alongside working.
So I have quite an unconventional background, especially for a diplomat, I think.
- You left school at 16. Could you tell us why?
Of course! So I left school at 16 because I wanted to get out in the world. I lived in quite a small town in Essex and I got offered a job in London.
So I used to commute 90 minutes each direction when I was 16. So that’s twice a day. My train fare was actually more expensive than my salary. So the company actually said they would cover my train fare as well.
But very quickly I realised that I wanted to study for ‘A’ Levels so I did that in parallel.
And that’s my journey really.
That’s how it all started a very long time ago.
- How did you manage to juggle everything?
It’s just being really organised I think.
I also got married during the course of my Master’s and I moved from the UK to Brunei. So there was quite a lot going on. But I think just take it one step at a time – that’s my philosophy to life and work-life balance.
And I just do my best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails miserably.
- What advice do you have for Brunei’s youths who may still be unsure about their future?
I think that’s very normal to be unsure about your future. I mean I still look now to myself and I turn 40 this year … and think, “What am I going to do next?”
So it doesn’t matter what age you are. It’s normal to wonder.
I think just keep being passionate about something in your life. Keep your friends, keep your family. Keep looking forward and believe in yourself. And get involved … voluntary, part-time work. I had a part-time job since before I left school.
Just go for everything and doors will open.
- Street smart versus book smart. Thoughts?
I think I believe everything in balance in life.
Maybe when I was younger, I’d be more focussed on street smart. Now being older, I think a bit more bookish … book smart. Everything in moderation.
- What’s something you love doing in Brunei?
I love exercising here. I love going into the jungle. I love running down my road, Jalan Kota Batu, where I live, and I love meeting hikers along the way.
And it always makes me smile when I’m in the jungle on my own and I see local Bruneian people and they say to me, “Are you lost? Are you okay? Can we help? Do you need any water?“
And that just warms my heart and I just feel how thankful I am for living in Brunei.
7. We all have bad days. What do you say to yourself to help you get through the day?
I think I try to say to myself, “Take it step by step.“
Sometimes issues and things in our lives can be almost overwhelming.
And there are things that we have to do and how we divide ourselves up.
But I always think let’s take it step by step.
And that started for me would you believe 8 years ago when I cycled from the bottom of the UK right to the top. And every day I had to take it step by step (or cycle by cycling) … just to get through every day.
And I had to break the day down.
And if I can get through that I think I can get through anything else.
- It’s the Year 2020. What are your thoughts on social media versus traditional media?
Wow! Well, obviously social media is a huge part of everyone’s life now.
Even my dad who’s in his 70s is using it. So that means it’s a big thing.
I think that traditional media also has a role to play. And I really believe in talking to people virtually or on paper through the means that resonates most with them so you’re always going to have those traditional newspapers, printed copy media types and you’ll also going to have lots of social media.
I think if we look to the future, it’s going to be more and more online.
- Floor is all yours. What would you like to say to our Neue readers?
So going back on the previous question about social media versus traditional media, I think what’s important is the messages you are trying to get out there.
And how we promote journalism and freedom of speech. And that’s the most important thing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s on Instagram, Facebook, or a newspaper. It’s about having that freedom to speak respectfully. It’s about talking about those difficult issues.
So the recent one that springs to mind is Black Lives Matter.
I think it’s all about talking about it and getting these issues out in the open.
I think that’s where journalism, freedom of speech I believe that is what it is all about.
And doing it in a respectful way so people can listen and talk.
And make a healthy debate.
And how some of us can learn from mistakes from the past and put those right for the future.
Part 2 Of #Neue9to5 Interview: Last 5 Questions
- Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I think I’m a very determined person and I think when people meet me they may not quite realise that but when I do get my teeth stuck into something, I won’t let go.
And I think that’s probably demonstrated best by some of the sporting stuff I’ve done in the past, which surprised many.
- Are you a cat person or dog person?
Well, Lance, I’m more of a dog person. However, I do love cats.
But definitely more of a dog person.
- If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be and why?
I think Samuel L. Jackson because he’s done so many fantastic movies.
He comes across as quite a serious … well, a very serious actor.
And I would love to know in real life is he really like that or is he very different in real life to what he is portrayed on a screen.
He has so much talent. It’s just amazing.
- If time travel were possible, what year would you like to travel to and who would you want to meet?
I would like to go to the 15th Century and meet Queen Elizabeth I.
And I’d like to know whether she does her own hair.
- What did you last do for fun?
I think when I had a video conference call with two of my best friends in the UK about 10 days ago.
And we just laughed and laughed and laughed.
And spoke about old times.
And it was just a really special memory and really funny as well.
You know when you have that really deep laugh that you’re crying and your tummy hurts?
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