Advice, Travel

Things To Do in Male’: Classes and Courses

 

When I first typed “Things to do in Male” into Google, Thilafushi came up as a ‘point of interest’. Sorry, my beloved Google, but visiting rubbish island really doesn’t cut the mustard as a leisure activity. Instead, here’s a quick ideas list of activities aimed at expats (or perhaps tourists bored of looking at cheap shoes and fake coral).

  1. Nashee Cakes offers a cake decorating course

  2. Heat Health and Fitness is a gym with Les Mills fitness classes and yoga

  3. Sea Explorers offer diving courses…

  4. And so does Maldivers

  5. Traders Hotel has an indoor gym on their top floor which you can buy monthly memberships for

  6. Xtreme Fitness. Yep, another gym.

  7. The Alliance Francaise offers regular classes in French and Divehi and occasional classes in French cooking

  8. Nadiya’s Taste of Maldives offers, surprise, Maldivian cooking classes

 

 

Please let me know if you’ve found any other classes and courses in or around Male’. I’d love to add them to the list.

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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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Advice, Travel

What to Take to the Maldives

I once travelled around India for five months with nothing but a school-sized backpack. A couple of changes of underwear, one change of outfit, my passport, a book, my wallet and a bottle of water: that was pretty much it. Cleanliness went slightly by the wayside in favour of portability and adventure. Yes, I was that dirty backpacker, and it was bloody fantastic. So, I fancied my chances when it came to packing light. How hard could this be? This time we were all – adults and mini-me alike – allowed 27kg total each: 20kg in checked-in luggage and 7kg in carry on. That equates to about 60lbs per person. Sounds plenty, right? I thought it did. I was wrong…

Though I have been on a good number of overseas trips, I’d never travelled as a parent before. I didn’t take into account that most of Mila’s weight allowance would be taken up with her toys. When you’re not planning on coming back for a decent slab of time, packing toys takes on a sentimental as well as a practical slant. Anything we didn’t take, she will have grown out of by the time we next see it again. The only real point in keeping toys for storage is for potential future babies, grandbabies (now THAT is a weird thought) and just because you will never pry those precious mementos from my cold, dead hands… Ahem.

Mila’s toys that we managed to bring with us. You can probably see how this would eat up a luggage allowance.

So, Mila’s suitcase was filled with toys and hot weather clothes. Mine was filled with 7 kg worth of textbooks that would enjoy a brief fortnight or so of use while we had our first nanny, and my clothes and shoes. Mr C’s carried work shoes, work equipment and clothes. Our weight allowance was quickly being sucked up, and we still had a house full of possessions to sort out.

In the end, we went for professional storage: a 3m x 2.7m insulated and ventilated cube that would hold the majority of our clothes, furniture, books, kitchen utensils and odds and ends. AKA, our entire lives. I try not to appear super-materialistic, but I will admit that shutting the door on all the stuff that represented our happy lives in Wellington was a wrench. It was also a step into the unknown. Still, we had been living in a small two-bedroom house, so we got off pretty lightly on the amount of storage we needed. As for the rest, here’s a breakdown of what we actually brought with us, what we shouldn’t have bothered with, and what I wish we had brought. If you’re reading this and planning your move to the Maldives, I hope this comes in handy.

High design it’s not, but I’m glad we brought this wall frieze to add a splash of colour to Mila’s bedroom walls

Good ideas:

Me:

Long skirts, both on the resort and for trips to Male’
Long dresses, ditto
T-shirts, ditto
Shorts, for the resort
Bikinis
Sandals and wedges
Makeup, jewellery and toiletries
Sunhat, sunglasses and sunblock
Insect repellent
Books
Laptop and phone

Mila:

Shorts and tshirts
Skirts and dresses
Sandals and summery shoes
Toys
Books
Sunhat
Colouring pencils
Child sized life jacket
Bunting flags and wall frieze for her bedroom

Some of the offending tops I didn’t need to bring

Space wasters:

Me:

Way too many cardigans and tops – 3 or 4 would have been plenty
Heels: great for getting stuck in the sand
Boots: too hot
Text books – not much use without a nanny!

Mila:

Warm clothes
Raincoat
Toddler sized sleep sack that is too warm even with the air-con on
A brand new scooter (that sand again)
Cloth nappies. Too warm to store them and we don’t do laundry often enough for them not to get seriously stinky.

What I wish we’d brought:

Tonnes more sunblock
Another sunhat
Home decor stuff: rugs, wall decals, posters, ornaments… etc. Our rooms are still very spartan, and that’s being kind. On grumpy days I complain about our prison quarters.
More long pants/leggings for Mila
More picture books: the ones in Male’ are pretty poor quality

What we were able to buy once we arrived:

Travel washing line
Shoe racks
Cupboards and bookshelves
Child sized cutlery set
Disposable nappies and wipes
Basic kitchen equipment like a fridge, toaster, kettle
Cups and plates
Food and drinks
Pool toys
Potty training gear (potty, toilet insert, training pants etc). I live in hope.
Stationery, arts and craft stuff

Can’t find for love nor money:

Eco and skin-friendly toiletries and beauty products. Don’t expect to buy anything here that intentionally avoids harsh chemicals that are potentially damaging: that kind of awareness is just not here yet.
Good quality toys and children’s books (plastic tat, on the other hand, abounds). 
Affordable, modern art prints – or even just posters
Anything that might resemble a souvenir that won’t set you back at least a few times what the item is worth
Attractive duvet covers and home decor
A sewing machine

So, that’s my packing round up. Overall, I’d give our efforts a solid B. I don’t think we did too badly, given all the must-brings we already had to accommodate. If I did it again I’d do it differently, but hey – we made it in one piece, and nobody forgot their underpants. High fives all round!

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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?

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