Daniela Makin, her serving husband Seth and their children Raphael (7), Corin (6) and Arwen (1) have embraced life in the rainforests of British Forces Brunei during their latest posting…

Namaste! I knew from our first meeting at university in 2008 that Seth wanted to dedicate his career in medicine to serving his country and becoming an army doctor. It was a vocation that seemed utterly selfless to me. I had grown up in France and Switzerland, and knew nothing about UK forces life. I was humbled, even inspired, by it.

Since marrying in 2012, we’ve lived in Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Suffolk, and currently Brunei with our family of five – our cat, Frodo, is currently being cared for by family in the UK until our return. It’s only since moving here that I’ve had the opportunity to consider the impact Seth’s choice of career has had on me and our children. The year before our move, he had been to Afghanistan for a tour that stretched to seven months due to the pandemic.

The catalyst

To enter into a crisis of international significance, looking after two young children, home-schooling solo, whilst Seth was able to help only through daily WhatsApp conversations, was terrifying. Nevertheless, we both pulled through stronger and decided to apply for this posting. Four months after our lockdown baby was born, we left for a new life across the world.

Brunei Darussalam – Abode of Peace – is a beautiful country where you can open your door and discover something new every day. From the oriental pied hornbills to the scampish macaque monkeys; from the scarlet skimmer dragonflies to the ‘chit chats’ – house geckos – that chirrup contentedly from the ceilings; from the bright yellow buds of dillenia to the fragrant frangipani and bougainvillea, it’s a naturalist’s paradise.

The natural environment is what anchors me here. It can be an arduous posting for those who enjoy a hectic social calendar and prefer to have amenities close-by. We wait up to three weeks for UK post however, we do have the beloved NAAFI, BFBS radio and television.

Vital volunteering

Jobs are few and far between, which can be challenging for those spouses who have paused their career – I gave up teaching and studying for a PhD. Many of us volunteer to keep our minds stimulated and the dust off our CVs. The Thrift Shop, Toy Library and Hornbill Helping Hands (PTA) are just some of the organisations which thrive thanks to the selfless dedication of families who give their time. I volunteer at a local library and have set up the British Forces Brunei (BFB) Bookworms book club thanks to the support of Reading Force.

Yes, sacrifices need to be made by families when moving to Brunei, however, the advantages of this posting are countless. Beyond the travel destinations that are suddenly on our doorstep, BFB itself is a unique community founded on respect, peace and tolerance, where our children safely grow into ‘international citizens’ amidst numerous cultural traditions, religions and languages. It’s an honour to be part of this community.

Whatever your relationship to your soldier, we’d love to hear about your army family. Email editor@aff.org.uk and follow @ArmyandYou for more stories.