Yes, the World Is Still a Disaster, so Let’s Play Ostrich and Talk about the Maldives

A philosophical question – do you take your children to beautiful places when they are young and then the impressionable ones (i.e. weak and not inclined to play with cell phones for hours) spend the rest of their lives missing that beauty? Or do you vacation in unattractive places and spare them the pain?

Darling, be careful of how much beauty you see as a child – a childhood in the Caribbean makes for later difficulties when someone leads you to a marvelous beach and, sigh, you silently lambast the sand quantity, quality, color, and texture, not to mention the blueness of the sky, majesty of palm trees, seashell variety, choice of fresh fruits, rum cocktails and sunsets.

I spent a lot of time in a tropical environment when I was little and I live in a tropical environment so the Maldives were pretty familiar, and not necessarily in a good way; lots of time when I thought ‘this is not fun, but at least I have some small idea of how to do this.’

Then I arrived in on the airport island (next to Male, the island that is the capital island of the Maldives, south west of the tip of India) and it turned out that my plane was so late that the seaplane to the resort had left and I had to get a hotel room for the night (which, of course, neither the airline nor the resort would pay for).

I find a cash machine, find the info desk and ask for an ‘inexpensive but safe’ hotel room. The helper guy got me to the ferry and then someone from the hotel came to walk me to hotel (one star and $150 a night). I collapsed on the bed, then pulled myself together and went down to find dinner. Walked out the door and about 50 men lounging on nearby front steps turned and stared at me. Augh. I walked about 2 blocks, small island, very inch built up with 3 to 5 story buildings, Muslim country so all women inside and men sitting on the curbs talking, playing cards. I gave up and walked back to hotel and asked the woman behind the counter if she could please call for a pizza and salad to be delivered. She smiled and said, “That’s better” [i.e. smart idea]. So I sat in the lobby.

Got up next morning at 5am, back to ferry, back to airport and got to the ‘resort lounge’ which was all splendid new agey, 26 shades of beige. The seaplane, however, was great – small, 15 passengers, door to pilot area was open so you could see him work all controls – loved it. I totally approve of seaplanes and will allow them to continue to exist.

Ok, now for the Maldives. Hmmm, it’s all ‘atolls’ with lagoons – which means high area (most of them underwater by a foot or two) with a round ‘lagoon’ area of an acre of two (?) with light green/ turquoise water, then a barrier (sometimes under water) around, followed by steep drop off into deep water. From the air, it looked like water blighted with ringworm. Really truly UGLY formations – the water was BLACK and evil looking, slightly dappled like leather – and the islands that were above water looked like scabs, bleah. Tropical islands need height, need mountains. You can see why they are shrieking about icebergs melting and the ocean level rising – if the ocean level went down about 2 feet, their land area would increase about 400%. Flat place.

Got to resort with irrepressibly chipper ‘greeter’ – who took me to my ‘villa’ which did not have a view of the beach. Hmm. I looked at Miss Chipper and said, “When a person spends a vast amount of money and travels a very long way for a ‘beach villa’ there is the expectation that the villa will be on, near or in sight of a beach.”

She explained that most of the villas were not in sight of the ocean. I gave her my ‘I am not amused’ look and asked her to please check.

She checked and oh my goodness, there was a beach villa that would be free at 2pm. Fine. So I crashed (48 hours – 6 hours of sleep), had lunch and went swimming, then moved to the new villa.

Villas (for those with an interest in architecture) were round with very high round pointed roof (looking up from inside you saw slats of wood, outside they were thatched). You walked in to tiny vestibule, then along the curved wall to the left. In the middle of the room was the bed (up on a high platform). Opposite the foot of the bed were French doors to concrete, fan-shaped patio with table and chairs and a view of ocean (about 20 feet wide, crowded in on either side by other villas).

Directly behind the head of the bed was another set of doors that led to large (round) walled garden. Just through the doors was glass enclosed toilet to left and glass enclosed shower to right. Then two outdoor sinks, directly ahead was Jacuzzi. This was all outside but under fan shaped extension of roof – if you walked past the Jacuzzi, you were out from under the roof.

There was an outdoor shower (my favorite kind with showerhead the size of a dinner plate set up about seven feet high) and a little ‘pavilion’ with a day bed. Plants around the walls the same plants as my garden, and little lizards, various bugs about. Very nice.

I read books, went swimming and walked around the island and that was it. Resort was one of those ‘barefoot’ places – sandy tracks between villas and the restaurants spread out over island – of course the guys who brought you cocktails by the (two) pools were barefoot, but so were the waiters, housekeeping staff and the seaplane’s pilot!

Tip: If you want friendly conversation from spouse – marry an Asian. Goodness, if a husband & wife were engaged in a happy friendly lively chat – they were Asian. Indians, Arabs and Russians talked a lot – but also lots of yelling. Euros and Amis: men stared at the water or played with cell phones. Weird. Looking at the wives trying to engage husbands in conversations and receiving grunts or no responses made me happy I was alone. One poor woman had screaming baby in a buggy and was trying to get hubby to move a chair about 6 inches from his hand so she could maneuver the buggy out of the restaurant; he was playing with cell phone. She finally had to go walk around two tables, move the chair, walk back to buggy and left, without husband every looking up.  One Ami man playing with his cell phone with his two kids running around him, pulling his hair, throwing stones, throwing pillows etc. – he totally ignored them. After ten minutes, his wife came, said a stream of sentences to him, he grunted without looking up, she looked at him, took the kids and left. When I left an hour later, he was still playing with the phone, and when I passed by 2 hours after that, he was still there.

Fourth best part – It was sunny and lovely the first 3 days but I kept thinking, my, I would like a lovely tropical storm and lo and behold, the day before I left, I woke up to wind lashing the plants and a proper drenching downpour. So nice to stand out in the rain, especially as that was the morning I had room service breakfast and did not half to walk to breakfast. Interesting that although wind was howling and rain pouring down, the ocean stayed perfectly quiet – waves the whole time were about six inches high and barely audible.

Third best – Spa! Hello happy Spa! Best spa I have been to in my life – hands down. The spa all spas want to be but can’t because they don’t have the space and climate. You walked in along wandering pebble path with stream running along either side with gold koi and on other side of stream, green jungle plants. “Reception” was open air pavilion, with hole cut in middle of roof so rain could fall through. Then the person who was doing the massage came to get you and you walked along another twisting pebble path (with koi stream) and went into one of about 15 little ‘houses’ – with your own changing room and bathroom and the massage table in the middle of a large airy room with French doors to walled garden with outdoor shower shaded by a coconut palm and surrounded by banana trees. No schlepping from room to room – no having to listen to other people natter on and no endless questions. Got a massage and scrub was so happy happy, went back to the next day and got a facial and pedicure. Perfect.

Second best – sound of wind in palm trees

Best – first night I went out to swim in the ocean after dark (very shallow) and discovered phosphorescence in the water! ‘Sparks’ of light in the water when you moved it. (I figured it was therefore safe to go swimming because I would have seen the trail from a shark if one was nearby). I splashed around every night; if you flutter-kicked your feet it gave the effect of a 4th of July sparkler underwater. On the last night I just had to go back in even though I had just come from the spa – I was thinking I shouldn’t but even the thought of ruining $350 of spa treatments could not keep me out of the water. Opps. Did I say $350? Mistake! Decimal placement! I meant $35! A mere $35!

So Darling, when things are better, you must travel so when things are bad, you have your memories to lean on. (and remember NO DECORATING AT HOME FOR CHRISTMAS BEFORE November 25 – the sacred rule of the universe.)