Maldives Rowing Volunteer
 
I know I know – it’s been a long time since the last blog. I thought you would like to see some photos of the island I’m on and my accommodation, surrounds and the fabulous place I have my meals. Howsomever, this will have to wait – I think the photos are going to take all night to upload so wish me luck. In the mean time as food is always close to my heart we will start there.

I have finally found a real life feeder – Nurislam! I have been on the lookout for one of these ever since, I’m sure it was a channel 5 programme, came out about them.  If things continue as they are and I return from the Maldives the same size I was when I left the UK I will be very pleased. I was told I would lose weight here but obviously the two coaches last year lacked the all powerful presence of Nurislam in their lives. Nurislam is the previously mentioned Bangladesh guy who provides my meals here. As mentioned he speaks no English but has surmounted this obstacle with an ingenious use of the phone. I have no say whatsoever over my meal times – I tried, it lasted 3 days before the new and ‘improved’ regime was implemented. I now receive a phone call – ‘come, come Byyyyyeee’. If i do not at that instant drop everything and high tail it up to get my food (a 20min walk which at lunch time leaves you soaked) after 10 mins I will get a phone call every minute until he is convinced I am walking his way. I’m sure he has spies. The cries of ‘come, come BYEE’ get louder, with overtones of panic and squeakier as time goes on!

Once I’m ensconsed in his lair all is beaming smiles and head wobbles as the food is laid out. Each meal would feed about 5 people and woe betide me if I do not clear it all up! Tutts, down turned mouth, extortions in a range of languages to eat more and do better followed by a huge grump and banging of plates if he is forced to clear unfinished food away. A large bowl of rice usually fried with variety of spices, chillies and often chicken is always there, 6 rotis every meal, 2 -3 bowls of other types of curry - chicken, fish and dhal. Oh and of course a fried egg. God knows what my cholesterol is going to be like with two of those every day for six months! Oh and on special days the fried egg becomes a chilli omelette. The food started off pretty basic as he got the measure of me. Then when he realised I’m a walking dustbin and will eat whatever is put in front of me and not pass out or turn my nose up, we’ve (stomach and me) been treated to lots of Bangladesh curries (a much higher level of cuisine, in his mind, than what the Maldivians have to offer). I have no idea what, other than chicken, is in most of them but they are really yummy. Also watermelon juice appeared a couple of times, apples and some very tasty drink which involved a fruit that looked like frogspawn in the bottom half of the glass the rest of the glass is then filled with milk, sugar and water.

If you don’t like sweet things don’t go to Maldives or Asian subcontinent! Oh and for those that have always wondered what strawberry fanta tastes like well i can now tell you - Nurislam had the bottle open and cascading into my glass before I could stop him. I stuck my finger a third of the way up the glass but that was ignored and despite loud protests on my part i was given the full glass. It is revoltingly sweet, cloying and something I will hopefully never have again! NEWS FLASH: Sadly it now appears ready poured and awaiting my arrival. I managed to sneak into the kitchen when he left me unattended for a minute yesterday and pour it down the drain. Will have to man up and tell him at some point.....

During the meal he sits and watches me beaming and head wobbling. Every so often, sighing deeply and holding up his hands, he begins to count off on his fingers one at a time all the things about me that cause him concern: 1) no husband 2) no children 3) no house 4) (worst of all) no money! This last one has to be checked daily - voluntary work being something he cannot get his head round. My claim that all this makes me happy is ignored!

This brings me nicely onto my new friends. I mentioned the two keralan families last time. Well there are, it transpires, numerous teachers from Kerala working as teachers in schools all over the Maldives. They, and now me, collect at the infamous dock side each evening to chat and enjoy the cooler night air. It also provides an escape from the single rooms they rent from Maldivian families. Shiji and Babu have two teenage boys, Sibi and Tony, who are desperate to learn how to do breast stroke and butterfly so today we had our first lesson in these two strokes. Yours truly having to demonstrate and being told I’m an amazing swimmer to which i naturally agreed!

Jeeja, the mother of the other family, was also along to learn to swim because she has been terrified of the sea ever since the 2004 tsunami. The waters swept away her home and she escaped by climbing a coconut tree! Today we got to the point of kicking with floats and being able to walk about in the water without hanging onto me for dear life. All this illicit afternoon, water based activity managed to attract the attention of the police who came to watch us – possibly to check we weren't muslim I don't know.

The boys Sibi and Tony have supplied me with more movies – karate kid, home alone and nanny mcphee – sadly I cannot reciprocate as I only brought books out which is, i’ve been told, VERY BORING! Nor do i have any computer games a fact that sent me plummeting in the estimation of the family i stayed with on Hulhumeedhoo island last week. The girl there also told me that I could not be female because I was too tall and wide and so must be a man – lovely little child! As well as Nurislam, Shiji and Jeeja also love to feed me. The other evening I had rice and devilled fish curry at Jeeja’s before a Nurislam onslaught half an hour later washed down with a bottle of coke and wagon wheels at Shiji’s and then went for coffee and ‘short eats’ (snacks - in this case tuna Panini, chocolate cake and bread pudding) with Shareef, one of the guys I met on the fateful ferry trip.

When i rolled home at 1130 feeling quite ill I discovered much to the amusement of the security guards that I had managed to lose my room key (again)! This time luckily it had fallen out of my pocket when we’d been sat at the harbour chatting so having borrowed the guards bike i was able to retrieve it quite quickly. I have no idea what the very drugged out person sat on a nearby chair thought when i hove into view on a bike for a midget and fished about on the ground under his seat before holding up my key on its yellow tie with whistle attached exclaiming happily ‘here it is’ before heading off on my two wheeler!

You remember I wrote about the taxi and it’s windscreen being half useable. Well I asked Shareef about it as we crept at 5mph down the road in a similar vehicle that he was driving. Creeping along roads is standard as is stopping willy nilly about the road if you need to chat on your phone and can’t be bothered to drive at the same time. So we were sat in a gold no less, sporty vehicle (don’t ask me what make i told you the important bit it was gold) and never got out of first gear! It belonged to his silent friend who had also come along for drinks (drinks always means coffee here as we are in a dry land) and was sat in the back seat. Back to the windscreen - you can see through the black bit a little better at night but not much. Shareef informed me that this was no problem because the clear bit of windscreen allowed you to see the road just in front of your bonnet this being  all you ever needed to see! Who wants to be able to look down the road at oncoming traffic or see the pedestrian well before you hit them i ask you?

 When we were returning to my abode i suddenly noticed we were cruising down the wrong side of the street with oncoming vehicles, well not so rapidly, approaching, (we could have been doing this for quite a while I’m a touch unobservant). As i squeaked a warning I was told it was all ok. Those trees in the middle of the road did not signify a division between two lanes and it was entirely at the drivers discretion as to which side of them he chose to drive. I suppose as the oncoming vehicle was not on the road just in front of his bonnet Shareef had yet to see it and so to him the road was clear!!!

On my way back from Hulhumeedhoo island I had 3 hours to kill waiting for a bus in Feydhoo so I walked down to Gan to get some food at the ‘Equator Village’, the Maldives equivalent of a ‘backpackers resort’.  At US$130 a night backpacker may be the wrong word but still cheaper than the one over the water costing US$400+ - apparently Rowan Atkinson and Madonna go there. While sat at the bar drinking my coke and waiting for the buffet to start i got chatting to a trio of people – one male brit from essex who raced motor bikes and had broken most of the bones in his body, and a couple who were from germany and venice. So after a while the guy from venice asked the british bloke why he didn’t speak proper English like me!! Luckily the brit was very nice and didn’t say cause i have a posh toffee nosed accent and tried to explain, without much success, that there are lots of different accents all over the UK.

I went back there this weekend to go snorkelling and saw turtles, moray eel loads of stunning coral and fish and a shark! As is the norm with me the camera battery died almost instantly so have very few photos. Luckily saw the shark the instant we got in the water so the hazy shots you will see is real life shark.... It certainly puts the heebie jeebies into you when you’re sat on the boat ready to drop over the side and your ‘captain’ informs you they saw two sharks there this morning. You look over and all you can see is blue water no bottom and he’s telling you to hurry up and get in! So while muttering about dying i duly got in and was so busy going goggly eyed over the coral and fish before me that el capitan had to literally turn my head round for me and show me the shark swimming about behind me! Had a very enjoyable hour and a half and can’t wait to get diving.

On my various bus trips I met a guy from the US called Mike who is a meteorologist of some description setting up a weather station on Hithadhoo. He is into free diving so am planning to give that a go while I’m out here – apparently you can increase the length of time you can hold your breath with training -sounds like a good pointless challenge and use of my time to me. Have to be wary of holding it to the point that you don’t want to breathe anymore and pass out and die - other than that think it should be good fun.   

On the ‘work’ front have made my schedule - works out at 6-8 hours of coaching 6 days a week – yippee!!! Hoping to have lots of helpers...... This gives each school 7 one hour sessions to be ready to compete in a regatta......aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!

X Tash
 


Ibrahim Khalid
08/17/2011 03:41

Came to know about Maldives rowing through 'RAF Gan Remembered' website, which I follow very earnestly. I welcome you here and hope you have a fruitful and rewarding Maldives experience. Will follow your blog.

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