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.