Expat Stories

Sunshine

 

It’s still the South-Western monsoon season (read: the rainy season), and that runs right from May until November. We have a way to go yet! Nonetheless there have been blue skies as well as thunderstorms, and we try and make the most of the dry patches and get outdoors. It’s being out on the beach that really makes me feel good about our life here. We moved to the Maldives. Winning!

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Expat Stories, Kiddo

No Nakey Bums in the Restaurant

Life with a nearly three-year old is life with a small round-cheeked hand grenade. I never know quite when she’s going to go off: a literal type of poo/liquid/finger paint explosion or dropping a verbal bomb at the breakfast table. Today it was the latter.

Breakfast has never been the easiest meal for us. Small children, well mine at least, do not like to have to sit quietly and eat their breakfast with a knife and fork while making small talk.We turn up at the buffet restaurant looking like we’ve prepared for a week-long sit-in. Colouring books and pencils, small bags of blocks, picture books, toy cars and other random assorted items that couldn’t possibly be left behind (a fistful of felt-tip pen lids without the pens? Check). Of course I also need my phone for making distress calls when I feel like Mr C has kept us waiting longer than necessary – ie more than a few minutes, and sunglasses for sinking in shame behind when my noisy mini-me threatens to disturb the peace.

The other thing about breakfast is that it requires clothes. Mila the would-be-nudist is not so fond of that detail. We’ve had many a conversation about how it is fine to be butt-naked inside (in our house, at least) but you need clothes on to go outside. We live in a pretty public space, without the luxury of a garden for naked runarounds. Mila knows that if you were to go to the restaurant naked, you might get in trouble with the restaurant staff and you would probably get told to go home and put some clothes on. So it was with great delight that she spotted the naked lady, sitting down to eat her breakfast.

Only she wasn’t nekkid. She was wearing a low-backed halterneck dress. Her hair covered most of the tie at the top and the seat covered the rest of the dress, but hey, she was wearing it!
“That lady is nakey,” Mila said, not quite quietly enough for my liking.

“No, she’s not naked, she has a dress on – ”

“No, she’s NAKEY! THAT lady. She’s got no clothes on.” The dreaded pointing finger came out. “THAT LADY THERE HAS A NAKEY BUM.”

“Sshhh,” I wheedled, “she has a halterneck dress on. See the tie of the dress around her neck?”

“I DON’T WANT TO BE QUIET, I WANT TO BE LOUD,” my definitely not quiet daughter boomed. “THAT WOMAN IS GOT NO CLOTHES ON. SHE NEEDS TO PUT CLOTHES ON. SHE NEEDS A GO HOME, PUT HER CLOTHES ON.”

Mila started trying to stand up in her seat to get a better look at this “naked” woman. I reached for the Sunglasses of Shame.

“YOU NEED TO PUT CLOTHES ON, YOU LADY,” Mila shouted, half out of her seat. A few heads swivelled in our direction but I could feel a dozen more pairs of ears becoming finely attuned to our corner of the restaurant. The woman in question remained miraculously unaware, or at least she had the good sense not to turn around and face the beady stare of a preschooler.

I searched frantically in our bag for more distractions. A peg and some string? a few hair clips? Nothing enticing.

“SHE WILL GET IN TROUBLE, SHE’S NAKEY,” Mila started a new angle of attack.

“No, no, she won’t,” I tried to calm her, “Remember she’s not naked, she has a dress on, you just can’t see it.”

“I can’t see it? It’s invisid-bil?” I could see cogs turning. Then, “Take my clothes off mummy. I want get my invisid-bil dress on too.” My daughter is trying to peel her clothes off in the restaurant.

Happy days.

This blog post is part of a Bloglovin link-up party 🙂

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Expat Stories, Kiddo

Tiny Island: Pros and Cons

This is not a list of pros and cons so much as a summary of my day today. Ergo, the cons:

Mila is still doing it tough. Just on the cusp of turning three, away from all her buddies, her adored Nanny (nana) and Papa, and her much-loved part-time daycare. Her favourite word currently is RRROOOOAAARRR! She roars at me. She roars at the restaurant staff. She roars at the canteen staff. She roars at guests who look at her (you got a problem with your eye, boy?). She roars at everyone. And not a very nice, kindly type of roar, if those happens to exist. An angry, WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME? type roar. She’s not happy, and it’s all my fault.

Well, my fault and Mr C’s: together we made the decision to uproot her. But as women and mothers we are raised to feel guilty and inadequate, to soak ourselves in all the memories of things we didn’t do quite right. Not all the time, of course, but more than enough. Did you make the right choices? Are your legs slim enough? Is your career good enough? Is your mothering good enough? It’s that last question that creeps along in my shadow, no matter how much I try to kick it away.

Today the weight of all my doubts felt heavy. I roared back in words. Not in a nice, kindly way. Stop that! I am sick of this! Immediately I felt guilty. And that made me even more pissed off and upset. Mother and child: locked in a battle of wills that was not really about either one of us and more about all the changes in our lives and all the things we couldn’t really articulate, at least not in neat, tidy and kind sentences. So we roared.

Then Martha, our nanny, arrived. She has been making HUGE progress with Mila. Mila does not roar at her, at least not after the first 10 minutes. Martha rocks her to sleep in her arms if I’m not there. That’s quite a physical feat for a tiny-boned, petite Sri Lankan woman faced with my sturdy child. “I had to sit down afterwards and rest!” she says, “But it was worth it. She looks so innocent when she’s sleeping.” We smiled together at the caveat. If Mila wants cuddles, Martha has plenty of them. Sometimes they nap with arms around each other, like I do with Mila when I’m at home. Mila has started saying Martha is her friend. That feels good. They read books together, do lots of drawing together, go for walks around the island together. The trust that was broken in our first awful nanny experience is being repaired. That feels good, too.

So, after being a sub-par parent this morning, far from my best, Martha came in to relieve me. She’s only here for a few hours at the moment so that Mila can get to know her, but boy was I glad to see her. Mila was already deep in dreamland; I brushed her hair back behind her ear and kissed her forehead. Still so much like a baby. Then I grabbed my laptop and my book, tiptoed out the door, prayed no-one would feel the urge to do some lunchtime construction work or get out the insanely loud fogging machine, and high-tailed it down to the bar.

I might have voluntarily foregone my social and support network of family and friends, but being able to hire a nanny – at much more affordable rates compared to New Zealand – is helping to bridge that gap. Once I would have babysitted the toddler of a sick friend; she would have easily done the same for me if I was worn out or needed a break. Now I have Martha. Maybe my ‘village’ is a little contrived, but Martha really does feel genuine and warm. I am so glad to have her here. A day that was spiraling into messiness has been restored with a couple of hours – all to myself! – to relax and recoup.

One large frozen pineapple margarita, coming right up.

photo credit: http://www.tasteloveandnourish.com/2013/05/01/frozen-pineapple-margarita/

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Advice, Expat Stories

Just the Three of Us

I have an old friend who hates Lonely Planet books. “Everyone reads the same guide books then goes to the same places, eats in the same restaurants and stays in the same hotels. And they wonder why those places aren’t as good as the guidebooks say! Well – Lonely Planet spoiled them, that’s why,” he would complain.

I had to admit that he kind of had a point. Nonetheless, I looove me some Lonely Planet. Like a little chunk of travel in my hands, just waiting to spill out of the pages into a thousand mind-bending experiences. Plus, despite all the information out there on the internet, guidebooks are a handy all-in-one. It turns out that I don’t like being stranded without a map and directions to dinner. I like being guided.

Crap, there is no guide for living as an expat in the Maldives.

OK, so that’s a bit of a lie. There are actually a few of the forum variety, including Allo Expat Maldives and Expat Blog Maldives. Maldives posts also pop up in places like British Expat despite the site having no dedicated Maldives page. But, but, but, there isn’t the kind of camaraderie I’m searching for. To begin with, during quiet weeks you could hear a cricket cough browsing the same expat forums that were humming when we lived in Malaysia. And there’s nowhere full of Maldivian expats bitching and complaining about the same trivial things, getting sick of eating tuna curries and wishing someone would send them a nice big jar of Marmite from home. Know what I mean? There might be forums, but I wouldn’t call them communities.

But surely there are other Maldivian expat bloggers, right?

Somebody let me know where this tea party is at, if I’m missing it. So far I’ve tracked down one blog that’s still being regularly updated. But for the most part, we’re winging this on our own. Even expanding my search for other bloggers, I keep feeling like the same kid I was in high school: trying way too hard to fit in and never quite managing. Fuck it. I’ll do my own thing.

This blog is an oddball, too.

There are lots of homeschooling families living overseas and blogging about it. Mila doesn’t go to kindy or school, but we do have a part-time nanny. So even though she IS at home, I get the impression that it doesn’t count since we have a (lovely) non-relative traipsing in regularly to look after her. Naughty us.

Then there are lots of travelling unschooling families. I quite like the idea of unschooling on some levels: passion-led learning without a fixed curriculum. But perhaps even more so than the homeschooling crowd, a lot of unschoolers would be horrified at the idea of a nanny. We’ve also had Mila in a Reggio daycare in New Zealand – a fantastic, enriching experience. More blasphemy to the unschooling set! On the other hand, I’m also decidedly not into the radical unschooling lifestyle of complete child autonomy. I need my time alone, I need my house reasonably tidy, and horror of horrors, I need my needs and desires respected too. So we negotiate and compromise and as a parent I do set limits around things like food and media viewing. These things are often at odds with the radical unschooling philosophy.

As I mentioned here, I’ve also stumbled across travelling family blogs. They’re brilliant and inspiring and I hope one day we’ll be lucky enough to be among them. But we’re not full time travelling now, just plotting trips here and there to keep the travel fire sated. The long term travel idea is just bubbling away on the backburner, a wee nugget of excitement that will take time to come to fruition. We’re not counting down the number of days til we leave or the days til we return.We’re not part of that club. (And here I can’t help but whisper, yet.)

In the meantime, we’re expats, if not like most of the expats I’ve met. We stick out like a sore thumb here in the Maldives because a) we’re not single and b) we have a child in a country that doesn’t make it easy for expats to bring one. We have no fancy house, no army of household staff and definitely no modern cosmopolitan city in which to shop til we drop. I know I’m making some massive generalisations, but those are my attractive-if-unrealistic associations with the word ‘expat’. Harrumph.

Enough of the complaining, already!

Sometimes you just need to suck it up, and maybe today is one of those days. I didn’t leave my cosy, happy, easy life behind because I wanted to fit in. Things were pretty good in New Zealand. We weren’t evacuating the premises, we chose to come here. Like a beating drum in my soul, I remind myself of that: we chose this, we chose this, we chose this. That doesn’t mean I’m reprimanding myself about it: it’s actually kind of liberating. I chose this life, so I can always go back to my old one if I want to. Except that I don’t, not at all – and that realisation means I know I made the right choice. I accept the good and the cruddy because they’re all part of the package I signed up for. We’ll make it work. We’ll have an adventure. We’ll poke the frustrations with a stick and laugh.

And sooner or later, we’ll find our community – whether that be online or in real life. Maybe for now, it’s just Mr C, Mila and I, together. I can live with that.

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Expat Stories

Monsoon in the Maldives

The monsoon began a few days ago. It’s only the 3rd of May! That’s much earlier than I remember it beginning in India.

Heavy, warm, torrential rain. Fog like a soft grey blanket, folding us up in its grasp. Thunder so loud it makes the house rattle. Lightening so bright it temporarily blinds. A pressing humidity than makes everything damp, and everything smell like damp. The sand, the house, our clothes. Our bedrooms have turned into a makeshift laundry, trying to dry and air out clothes before they smell like cheese (sorry cheese-lovers, that’s not much of an advertisement!).

The weather is cooler but unpredictable. Last night Mr C and I ran laughing, in the darkness, in the monsoon rains. We only had 100 m to travel and still got caught out by the downpour. I am pretty sure half the staff were laughing at us too, but I don’t care.

During the stormy days we mostly stay inside. We’re all restless and irritable, but I do what I can to keep us all sane. Or maybe we weren’t all that sane to begin with? That’s not a bad excuse for the days when Mila and I don’t quite hold it together. When we do it’s by drawing, using modelling clay, reading stories, building forts. You can take it from that description that our house does not stay pristine.

Somehow the rain has made my brain foggy too. I feel like we’re all waiting for something – something to do? Somewhere to go? For the rain to stop? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Grumpy by breakfast

Grumpy by breakfast

Hibernating

Hibernating

Building a road of blocks in Mila's room

Building a road of blocks in Mila’s room

Keeping herself entertained

Keeping herself entertained

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Expat Stories

How to Spot a Fake Facebook Profile…

Or maybe not.

I have to admit that I am utterly addicted to Facebook. I justify this addiction with the fact I have no family or real friends here, so Facebook is my link to an online social support network of friendly faces that keep me sane. Prior to coming here of course I was still a Facebookophile (totally a word). I justified it because I was either studying via distance or parenting a small child at home, so my online support was still necessary…. Essentially, if there’s an excuse in the (face)book I will find it! We all have our vices and Facebook makes a nice change from all my other ones.

So there I was, participating on a Facebook thread which had devolved into a discussion about whether bikini tops are purely to cover your breasts (yep, pretty much) and if women who have no visible breasts at all can still say they have breasts (no, you strange people. Just no.) During the course of this debate I happened to mention my own breast size in a comment in which that was relevant information – no big deal in a group of women, I thought.

Five minutes later a comment popped up on the thread, addressed to me. “Why are you even here talking about breasts? Aren’t you a man?” a woman was demanding.

I sat there for a moment, confused and slightly offended that people would mistake me for a man (nothing against the lovely men in my life, but that’s not an aspiration for me!).
“Why would you think I am male?” I typed out slowly. I wanted to know why she thought that before I told her that I wasn’t. I wondered what male stereotypes I had triggered for her. I didn’t have to wait long.
“I just checked your profile page and it says you are a MALE from the Maldives!” she replied, triumphant.

It took me a minute… And then another minute to tell Mr C… And another several before I wiped the grin off my face. By that time someone else had already replied for me.

“Wonderful confusion!” they wrote, “I do not think this poster is a male in the Maldives, but that SHE lives in or near Male’, which is the capital of the Maldives.”

Wonderful confusion indeed.

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Expat Stories, Living small

Bed is NOT Square

Our staff accommodation is still in the process of (painfully) slowly being furnished.

Yesterday a couple of cleaners from the Housekeeping department lugged a wardrobe up the stairs with the intention of installing it in our bedroom.
“Look,” I said, before it was even down the hallway, “we really don’t have room for this right now unless we move some stuff around.”
I wasn’t kidding. I haven’t measured our rooms yet but with the laser-like precision of my eyeballs I estimate it’s got to be less than 300 square feet (8m x 7m ish). It’s SMALL. And this wardrobe, was not.

“It’s ok, we’ll put it over there, in front of the window,” one of the cleaners replied.
I stood there, half paralysed, not sure how to state the obvious without being offensive. Then it just tumbled out in a whine: “But then no light will come through the window.”

“Ok, ok, we put it here…”
“In front of the light switch? Um… I need to use the switch to turn the light on.”
I scanned the room. “You could put it next to the bed if you turned the bed around the other way.”

They ignored the bit about turning the bed around and proceeded to try and jam the wardrobe in beside the bed as it was, aligned with its long side against the wall. It’s both confusing and amusing watching people attempt to do something that is clearly NOT going to work, but even the cleaners eventually had to accept that this baby just wasn’t going to fit.

I cleared my throat and suggested again that they turn the bed around first, so that the short end was against the wall, to give them more room for the wardrobe.

“No, no madam – the bed is square. No more room if you turn it around.”
I looked at the bed. It was not square.
“It’s not square, see, this side is longer, and this side is shorter?”
“No no, bed is square. All sides the same.”
I looked at the bed again and blinked. It was still not square.
“I don’t think it’s square…”
“No, no madam, it is…”

On and on we went. Yes it is! No it bloody well is not! Well, a slightly more diplomatic version. Both the cleaners agreed, the bed is square. They yelled down the hallway and I heard the other cleaners clattering towards us to have a nosy. Their verdict: yes, the bed is square. A slow grin was spreading virally across their faces. White woman, not so smart, it said. I kept looking at the bed. Was it square? Shit. I had been so sure.

“Look, just leave the wardrobe here and I’ll sort it out.”
Disappointed, the cleaners took their leave.

With Mila busy making tents out of the sheets I dragged the bed out into the middle of the room, turned it round 90 degrees and pushed it back towards the wall. Then I pushed in the wardrobe beside it. Victory dance! There was miles of room between the bed and the wardrobe: I’d gained at least a few feet more room, which is a lot when you live in a matchbox.

Why do these tiny victories mean so much? I guess because we’re all living in each other’s pockets, on this tiny island. Small becomes big. And I admit, I bought into it. Standing back and admiring my own handiwork (and clearly my own genius in being right about the bed shape) I couldn’t wait for the cleaners to arrive the next day.

“TA-DA!” I wanted to crow. “Bed is NOT SQUARE.”

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Expat Stories, Travel

On Not Coming Home

When we left New Zealand, we told everyone we knew we’d be gone two years. Mr C’s contract is for two years, so that was our given time-span. Twenty-four months that would slip by: done and dusted.

And yet, and yet. You would think that what I felt when we crossed the short gangplank to the aeroplane might be excitement, or trepidation, or anticipation. But what I felt was an overwhelming sense of relief. Thank god I was getting out of New Zealand: a country full of people I loved, but thousands of miles from anywhere. There’s an odd kind of claustrophobia that comes from knowing you’re in an empty corner of the world; my skin itched for change. When the plane’s wheels folded back and the tarmac rolled away below us, I was finally set free.

Once we settled in to life here in the Maldives, I began looking for blogs of other expats living in the Maldives (oy, it’s a lonely corner of t’internet) and then decided I would just read the blogs of any interesting folks living overseas with their children. Of course there are a bajillion and one, but some that I found inspiring were  The O’Sullivans AbroadLost in TravelsRaising Miro on the Road of LifeThe New Diplomat’s WifeSoul Travelers 3 and The Sattvic Family, to name a few. These are people living amazing lives in various countries, and I feel like our family is doing something pretty cool too… So why was this ugly, greasy jealousy winding its way through me? It took me a while to figure out: because most of these people don’t plan on going home.

It was one of those moments where you realise the obvious: Aha! Why are we putting an end-date on our travels? We don’t HAVE to come home if we don’t want to. And yeah, I know it is THAT obvious, but I still spent a few days reveling in the cleverness of myself for figuring it out. You have to celebrate the small things sometimes! After I finished frolicking around in glee I learned more about family travel. Some of the families I read about really are travelling families, living a nomadic existence for a good part of the year or full time. As much as I ADORE this idea, I also have a soft spot for my husband. He likes having a career, and that means staying put for at least a year at a time. Quite a few of the nomadic bunch are also single parents: so long as your ex-partner is willing (or completely absent) I think that gives you a bit of extra autonomy that you don’t have when you’re a team of two or more.  Nonetheless, they are part of a greater movement of slow travel; intentionally spending longer periods of time in one place in order to experience it more fully. And while we can’t be nomads, we can be slow travellers of the expat variety.

So here’s our Plan B. We aren’t coming home, at least not for good, for several years to come. When this contract ends we’ll move somewhere else for a year or two, when that contract ends we’ll move again. Life overseas suits us. Things that matter to Mr C (not being poor) and things that matter to me (travel) merge happily. It’s funny how much of a mental shift it has made, taking the end-date off our journey. Our world has expanded – where will we go next? Thailand, India, Dubai? Mr C is loving on India these last few days, which just makes me love the man more. How will we find a new posting? How will we educate Mila if we are overseas?  On the theme of love: I love that our new plans are providing so many questions for life and time to answer.

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Expat Stories, Kiddo

Nanny: Check

We hired a nanny today. Second time lucky?

God, I really hope so. Not that my gut instinct has proven itself particularly reliable, but I do have a very good feeling about her. Her name is Martha: she only moved here from Sri Lanka in February, with her new husband. I like that we’re both new here. She showed me her wedding photos. I wanted to talk about our wedding too, how we were married a month after them. Our wedding was gorgeous: blue skies, a country house, a garden wedding and a reception in a covered pagoda that had grape vines climbing all over the ceiling beams. But I pulled myself in. I’m wary, after being pregnant in Malaysia, of anything that might label me The Unmarried Heathen Mother, even though I am married now. I am not ashamed of having a baby outside of marriage – hell, I wouldn’t be ashamed if I’d conceived her during a one night stand – but I don’t have time for the labels people here might give me. Here’s my husband, here’s my child: I’ll leave you to your own assumptions.

Anyway, back to Martha. She’s lovely. She called herself shy but didn’t seem it. She misses her niece and nephew in Sri Lanka. She’s bored at home and wants a job. “OK, done!” I wanted to crow. She was just so nice. But we had three more interviews to get through first. I just knew they wouldn’t be as ideal, and they weren’t. A woman who spoke hardly any English, despite having perfect grammar when she SMS’d and emailed me. Was that her husband writing for her? Or was her writing just leagues ahead of her spoken English? It was an odd interview. Then two more women whom I could hardly tell apart. Painfully shy with voices so quiet I had to strain to hear them. They both rubbed Mila’s cheek as they left, which is the standard Maldivian greeting to children. She growled.

Actually, she did pretty well today. It was a long, hot morning. We were in Seagull cafe, sitting upstairs under a fan that I willed would spin just a bit faster. Mila occupied herself with her colouring pencils: then blowing bubbles in her juice, then mashing and mixing an ice-cream sundae as big as her head. She’s still not three, so I don’t expect miracles. Just remaining reasonably quiet and not exceptionally mobile in a public space is the miracle.

She fell asleep on my lap on the ferry home, tiny beads of sweat on her upper lip, skin sticky. I kissed her damp hair. This nanny will be better than the last one, I silently promise her. And then I hoped like anything it was true.

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Expat Stories, Kiddo

Finding Childcare in the Maldives

Like everything else here, turns out it’s an adventure.

In New Zealand Mila was in daycare three days per week while I studied full time. Obviously, those numbers don’t quite add up: to make my study work I had to rope in my lovely husband and parents on occasion, and pull all-nighters when I ran out of time. I did make it work, but it was far from ideal. What was ideal was her daycare. Oh, that place! We all still miss it. A Reggio Emilia  based centre with an outstanding child-staff ratio and staff that were caring and engaged and interested. They cooked together, gardened together, went rampaging through the local forest and stream. It was an idyllic place for her. If I could find anything like that again – or if we ever go home with a preschooler – I wouldn’t hesitate to enroll her. But here? Wishful thinking.

We were of course, promised a nanny would appear almost as soon as our plane’s wheels hit the tarmac. I was anxious about it: I drove Mr C mental making him repeat the assurances and check that the deal was still on. It was, it was:everything will be ok! Don’t worry about it. We’ll have you a nanny within an hour. Three in the next day – just pick the best one. But I was right: promises are slippery things here, and finding a nanny was not that simple.

The first one, Irma, took two weeks to show up: an eighteen year old with an attitude and no previous experience. “My sisters don’t think I can do it, so I want to prove them wrong,” she announced at her interview. If there had been anyone else, we wouldn’t have hired her. But there wasn’t, so we decided to give her a go.
“Do I have to come this early? It’s too early for me, I’m so tired,” she complained on the first morning. It was 8am and she’d just stepped in the door. As a parent of a small child, I’m pretty lacking in sympathy for anyone who thinks getting up at 6.45am is an ungodly hour.
“Yes, you do.”

“I don’t like the food at the canteen.”
“Do I have to take her to meals? I don’t like that place.”
“Can you make the TV work? I want to put the TV on.”
“I didn’t see her drawing on the floor because I was busy talking on the phone to my ma.”
“I don’t like having to get the ferry.”
“We didn’t do anything today, it was so boring.”
“Do I still have to take her to breakfast?”
“I couldn’t play with her today because she doesn’t like me.”

Photo credit: Dharmaflix

No wonder she doesn’t like you! I raged inwardly. You don’t make an effort – you don’t take her to meals unless I practically drag you – everything is an effort and a chore. I split into anxious halves: let her go or keep trying? It was amazing how fast the whole situation unravelled. Irma left the house a mess every evening, kept turning the TV on after I asked her not to and seemed to be eternally distracted because she was on the phone. The last day Mila spent with Irma was awful. She’d just had enough and clung to my husband and I as we tried to leave. I held her and rocked her on my lap for an hour before I left. She screamed as I walked out the door and I could still hear her screaming as I walked away. My heart was broken: it was not right leaving her in that situation, with a nanny who obviously did not, to be quite frank, give a shit about her little charge.

I bawled down the phone to Mr C that I was not doing this anymore. I would withdraw from my studies for the semester if it meant no more Irma. He agreed. No more Irma. Despite the loss of my academic semester, I felt my lungs inflate properly for the first time in days. My stomach unclenched. Relief. We’d had two weeks of Irma and that day when Mila screamed was the last day she worked. We paid her out for the rest of the month, and went back to square one.

We had already listed on Great Au Pair, a site which charged a steep US$60 for a month’s premium membership. And you needed to have a premium membership in order to contact potential nannies – so basically for the site to be of any use, although of course it was easy to sign up for the free version without realising that. Despite the name, the site promised it was also possible to hire nannies for any country in the world. We had plenty of applicants: but nobody from the Maldives, and most expecting the same salaries from their home countries: France, the UK, the US. Here in the Maldives we are able to offer a salary that is much better than the local going rate, but it still doesn’t compare to a Western income. Plus, we didn’t want to pay for an air-fare over here or organise work permits – so in the end, the site was a flop for us. We needed to go local.

And then I found it: Ibay. It’s the Maldivian equivalent of Ebay, and it has jobs. It’s a hassle to sign up for: you have to register with a bizarre SMS back-and-forth, the terms and conditions you agree to are only in Divehi (so God knows what I agreed to!) and the links aren’t the easiest, but, but, but – 100% worth it.
Maldivians seem pretty keen on their phones, so I gave out – with some reluctance – my phone number as well as a robot-protected version of my email address. Nobody bothered with my email. I had ten applicants the first day, and ten the next. Where were all these would-be-nannies coming from? I didn’t care. Well I did, but there was time for going through their CV’s later. For now I just wanted to feel gratitude that anyone had replied at all. The resort hadn’t made any progress finding anyone else, and I had begun to feel like we’d just fired the only nanny on Male’.

Of course, not all the applicants were what we wanted. The most memorable was Amina. Our text conversation went like this:

Amina: How much you paying.

Amina (five minutes later) Why you no text me back.

Me: Hi, can you tell me your name, whether or not you are living in Male and your childcare experience please. [I give her the salary range]

Amina: So how many hours I have to work

Me: Four days per week and two evenings.

Amina: I want to keep the baby with me in Male’ during day

Me: Sorry, she has to stay on the resort

Amina: I will come and see environment then decide if I accept the job.

Uh, sorry Amina, but no-one’s offering it to you! We may be a little bit desperate for a brilliant nanny, but you’re certainly not The One and we ‘re not THAT desperate. Been there, done that. Not doing it again.

But then moments later:

“Hi, I saw your advert for a babysitter for your family. Am really interested to spend time with kids. I am a Sri Lankan, married, living in Male’. Thanks, Martha.”

Photo credit: Dharmaflix

Now that is more like it.
We haven’t got to the interviewing stage yet, but today I’m feeling upbeat: somewhere in my phone inbox is someone who will take good care of my beloved little one.
Today, despite all the idiosyncrasies and dysfunction of everyday life here, is suddenly bright and warm with sunshine.

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