First Meet-Up Ever, December 2009

Some personal reflections by Hazirah regarding the only event for Brunei Bookswap that was held pre-2011.

The year 2009 was ending. The group was 1 or 2 months old. It had been exciting to see  responses to the group, with members initiating discussion topics and making book recommendations.

It felt natural that the next step was to meet up. I felt anxious about not losing the momentum, but hesitated to hold an event, for various reasons. I worried about what we would talk about, and what date or venue suited people most. I worried that people would not enjoy themselves, and I didn’t know what I wanted them to walk away with.

But at some point, I realized I couldn’t worry anymore. I took the plunge, and created a meet-up event using Facebook.

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Brief and Intimate

Late in the afternoon, I arrived to Au Lait and was somewhat surprised to meet the attendees. One of them was a friend. Another was a work acquaintance, and he had brought two of his work colleagues with him. It was a small group of five people, and with the cafe’s ambience and the feeling of unwinding after work, it was an intimate setting. We settled down to get to know each other through books.

It felt, at first, as if there was no true common ground in the books that we enjoyed. One said he liked textbooks, for learning. One was into romance, while another liked the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Another talked about the recent popularity of vampire fiction; this was possibly the first time I had ever sat down to talk to someone about the Twilight series. And I found myself unable to explain my own preferred genres, at a time when I had started transitioning from fiction to non-fiction.

Differences aside, I found myself interested to hear fellow readers explain why they liked a genre, and to describe notable examples or their favourite books. It was another two years before I realized the rewards of talking to people who like reading things that are different from your own preferred reading material.

However, another reward from these conversations was already immediately apparent: The joy of meeting others who actually read books for pleasure, or personal development. As a reader who never speaks to others about reading, you may spend your life accumulating – but keeping to yourself – your thoughts and experiences of reading: finding a time and a place to read; getting absorbed into a story; of personal disappointments or delights. How nice it is to speak to others and discover that the feeling is mutual. (I personally enjoyed meeting others who agreed with me that Malay novels are too melodramatic!)

It was brief, and I still regret that there was no follow-up to this meeting of readers, but thank you dear attendees: Jin Shen, Vassco, Silah and Zati. 🙂

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Other references to this meet-up:

  • The original discussion planning this meet-up, along with a short report from me afterwards (different from the write-up above!), can be found in this conversation on Facebook
  • Jin Shen later referred to the meet-up in the beginning of his article in The Brunei Times, “B:READ for the mind

Epilogue

Partly due to the group slowing down in activity, and my personal commitments to other activities, there were unfortunately no more events for another two years!

However, the first meet-up was not in vain. Unknowingly, it had set the scene for the later “revival” of the Brunei Bookswap group and the B:READ Book Meets, because of a simple concept that I took away from the brief meeting one December evening:

There is a desire to meet others who enjoy books and reading.

I look forward to more. 🙂

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