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Report No 5 - 27 May 2007 - The big move to Male
Back in March we had settled back into our fairly routine routine on
Dhuvaafaru and Ungoofaru after our short but very pleasant break in
Australia in January, when I was informed that our Project Manager
had decided to cut short his contract.
I was fortunately offered the position, which meant a permanent move
to Male with monthly visits to the job site. It certainly was a step in
the right direction for both Viv and I. She was very quickly growing
disenchanted with desert island life and I needed something more
challenging to look forward to each day.
Mind you Male is not the most exciting posting in the world but it's
certainly not the worst. I think I'm particularly lucky that I came
here via ten months on Ungoofaru - anything would be a significant step
up from there!
Male is an interesting place with 70,000+ people crammed into about
one and a half square kilometres. The streets are very narrow and the
sidewalks, where they exist at all, are mostly only wide enough for one
as they are frequently overlapped by the handlebars of the many
motorcycles.
Unlike almost all the outer islands, the streets are all paved with
driveway paving blocks and they are complete with a basic drainage
system. However, there are no garbage bins and so the plentiful rubbish
blocks the drains and the roads flood frequently during heavy rain.
The traffic situation is totally out of proportion for the tiny island
and the street network. It appears that there has been no restriction
on the importation of motor vehicles and the exponential increase in
numbers in the past few years has happened without a corresponding
education programme. Consequently you have to expect the unexpected
at all times.
Negotiating pedestrians and erratic traffic is a hazard at the best of
times but after 6.00 pm every day almost all the inhabitants of Male
empty onto the streets to get out of their small accommodation and to
'socialize'.
Naturally, to accommodate such a large population in such a small
space, many of the buildings are high rise. Ten storeys was previously
the limit but this has recently been increased to twelve and the
construction industry is booming so, no doubt, the population is
expanding also.
Although the importance of religion is still very obvious in Male it is
not all-pervasive as it is in the outer islands. In fact, apart from the
overall size of the island, you could be in almost any other Asian city
or large town. Most of the usual facilities are available but
unfortunately the telephone directory does not have a Yellow Pages
section and therefore addresses are sometimes a bit difficult to track
down.
The people appear a bit impersonal and unaware, which is probably the
result of the too sudden modernisation of their island and
over-exposure to tourists and to expats generally since the tsunami.
But when they are face to face with you they are very pleasant and
helpful.
There is still no alcohol on general sale here but it is possible for
expats to obtain a liquor licence that allows them to buy limited
quantities from special outlets for consumption by themselves at home.
There is also a tourist hotel on the nearby airport island where expats
frequently go in the evenings, that sells alcohol,. It's only a ten minute
free ferry ride straight to the hotel jetty.
Our house and office are very central and only a five minute walk
apart. From either it only takes ten to fifteen minutes to walk to any
point on the island. If it's raining and/or you have luggage then taxis
are abundant and very cheap.
We've now been here for two months and still Viv hasn't walked all the
roads or visited all the shop and we haven't scratched the surface of
the many restaurants. It's amazing how much is packed into such a tiny
space.
There are quite a lot of expatriates here but we haven't yet met many
outside of my work. I'm still not sure where they mingle apart from
the Airport Hotel and some of the closer resorts at weekends.
Our weekends are Friday and Saturday though I prefer to work on
Friday because it's nice and quiet and our site office and our head
office in Brisbane are both working then. Though, maybe when we've
been here a little longer and we've know more about the nearby resorts
and special deals, we will take a Friday and Saturday off for a change.
Viv's exercise regime is pretty much the same as it was on Ungoofaru
though she's now avoiding traffic rather than wheelbarrows as she
walks around the perimeter of the island each evening. Mine has
changed dramatically as there is a touch rugby group, mostly Sri
Lankans, and a Hash House Harriers here. The touch rugby is Monday,
Wednesday and Saturday. The Hash was Tuesday every other week but
we are trying for every week now to see how it goes.
Naturally the Hash runs are a bit similar from week to week because
of the limited area and flat terrain, and it's a fairly small pack, but
nonetheless it is very enjoyable to run with others instead of on my
own on Dhuvaafaru. And the liquor licence situation in Male allows the
Hash Circle to be traditionally correct!
But we've only been here two months so ........