Expat Stories, Travel

Moving into Chaos

We’re halfway through our first week living in the Maldives. Here’s the run-down:

The beaches are incredible. The water is clear and blue and warm. Yesss. I like this part of it! Mila has spent a good portion of her days on the beach or in the water, finding coral and shell treasures, hunting hermit crabs and chasing birds. Swimming in water that is still luke-warm at sunset? Pretty much the BEST THING EVER. At first glance the beaches look barren; drifts of soft white sand melting into the sea, but not much else going on. But look closer – the dark shadow of a sting ray or octopus, the glint from silvery fish in the shadows, shells getting up and trundling off in the evening. The whole island is alive with lizards and birds and things that swim.

The resort is still closed to guests and under construction. Along with the resort staff the island is a temporary home to 400-odd Bangladeshi labourers. It’s a weird vibe – are we in a luxury resort or a Bangladeshi village? It’s been eye opening watching the resort come together. Giant uprooted coconut palms swung into position by diggers; every plank of wood transported by hand; sand arriving by the truckload to smooth out the wrinkles; piles of rubbish disappearing by boat. I heard a story that the labourers built two brick houses for the two power generators, sanded down the outside and painted everything…¬†Then¬†realised they had no way of actually getting the generators into the houses (details, details…) and had to smash down the walls, install the generators, and rebuild the whole damn things. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who had to report THAT to my supervisor.

Most of the restaurant staff could qualify for the secret service. Four days here and somehow everyone knows what I like and don’t like and are quick to point out when my favourites are available on the buffet. (Confession: I live in fear of the day the waiter says loudly: “Oh look, they have your favourite cake today!”, just to let the whole place know I’m actually the resident glutton).

Yesterday at breakfast Mila sat down by accident in front of Mr C’s plate, which had a doughnut on it. He asked for his doughnut back (ha! wishful thinking), and she declared it was all hers. A plate of doughnuts to share was placed on the table virtually instantaneously. Oy! I’m guessing they’re not parents – the doughnut removal was more about trying not to jack our toddler up on sugar for breakfast – but you can’t fault them for speed.
Later that day we headed back to the same restaurant. Mila slipped down from her chair and ran away to talk to the staff, who she says are all her friends. One of the supervisors eventually lead her back to us and jokingly said, “she tells me she made a mess on your bed!”
“It’s true,” I replied. “She found a chocolate and hid under the duvet to eat it. Chocolate plus covert two year old, equals disaster!”
Twenty minutes later we arrived back at our villa to find the cleaners had made a late night trip to change all our bed linen. I’m torn between feeling guilty they actually sent out cleaners for us, and mightily impressed the thought even occurred to anyone. And honestly? I’m a mother to a small child, so I totally landed on impressed. Anyone who cleans up a chocolate-fabric mess on my behalf deserves at least a sainthood in my book.

So, our new life here begins. This stunning country and our small corner of it are not near-mythical paradises: the internet connection is infuriating, there is a lot of work here to be done and we’re living in the midst of an island-wide construction site. But it is beautiful chaos. I’m full of gratitude that our family has ended up here. Who knows what the next year will bring?