Fishy curries

My first night’s sleep was pretty good. I was awoken at 4am by three different singing voices, half-asleep I thought someone had set a load of very loud and inappropriately timed alarm clocks, but it was of course the first call to prayer of the day.
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Initial thoughts


This is not what I expected. I thought I would be able to write a nice witty piece about people watching on my planes, which was very fun. Apart from that, there was one thing which happened which seemed ominous: on the leg to Dubai there was a choice of fish or chicken; feeling as if this might be my last chance of meat for eight weeks I went for chicken…but was given fish. I didn’t complain as somehow I felt it might be some form of fateful intervention. I pondered my fish while I ate it.


I only got to Addu a few hours ago, and it’s completely massacred any expectations I had of the content of the first post I would write abroad. To be fair I arrived when it was pitch black, so I couldn’t really work out where I was, I was just driven to a house… However I hadn’t been completely screened off from the local nature; it is something I’m not appreciating so much at this apartment; I am living in unwilling harmony with cockroaches and ignorant harmony with I’m sure a whole host of other creepy crawlies. This is being written to a chorus of frog croaks. To add insult to injury I have broken my iPod and from what I can tell, there is nothing to do at all after 6.30pm, which is when it becomes dark- I will return in eight weeks a connoisseur of back garden noises..

Due to the distinct lack of any activity from what I’ve been told, I might adopt the sleeping pattern of getting up at dawn and sleeping when it goes dark… if only to give my cockroaches some personal space when they’re knocking about. I’m miffed about my iPod, but thankfully I brought enough books to last me. But again, I’m in a conundrum as the only room light enough for read happens to be the main bug hangout. Although all things considered, I am very fortunate to be living where I am living, it is as good as I could have wished for.

Nevertheless, there are things to do. I had a sit down chat with the guy, Mr Habeeb, vaguely coordinating my stay. That is really what he is doing. I can do as much or as little coaching as I want. He has no idea about the state of the boats. He has no idea how many kids will do it. He has no idea how much they want to do. Something was muttered about a national squad…. Something about a swimming training camp. Then elections. Then back to swimming. And on and on etc. Basically I have free reign; this might sound fun, but there is literally nothing to do as far as I can tell… rowing shall prove to be my only release (apart from when I can kick back with my six-legged friends). On another note I am finding the names a bit of a challenge, my main tactic being asking them for their contact details and saying “so, how do you spell your name?” once I’ve properly forgotten it.

I have since found a dongle and so will write pretty regularly.


10 days remain until I set off to become the only rowing coach in the Maldives… lol. The next 10 d

ays will be filled with saying goodbye, buying tea and coffee (English people are the only people I know who insist on taking months’s worth of a drink wherever they go) and making money to spend on non-alcoholic cocktails I can sip on the beach.

That’s the thing, I don’t even know what the beach will be like (there definitely won’t be any cocktails knocking about). Am I a tourist if I am working? No one really ever sees themselves as a tourist when they are doing touristy things, well at least I always see myself as “exploring” or “learning”. Also us Brits abroad tend to call local people “foreigners” which only takes a split-second of consideration to realise how stupid that is.


When I think of travel my thoughts immediately turn to one man, the unthinking man’s Michael Palin. Those who know me will know I am a great fan of Karl Pilkington (whose new series starts in two days!!!) and that I consider him to be genuinely very impressive. On An Idiot Abroad, his small-mindedness is actually not an exaggerated caricature of his own idiosyncrasies, but actually is probably closer to what goes through everyone’s minds when they visit other cultures alien to their own. Karl only measures things against that which he is familiar with and in the clip above who can argue with him when he points out that “they’ve done the hard bit” and that all they need to render the Chinese toilets acceptable would be “a couple of hinges and a door, and maybe some toilet paper”. Watching his show is like watching an outer-body experience, and anyone who says the contrary is denying all the times they have refused to try a local dish, acted disappointed when there is no BBC on the hotel television and spoken to locals in English assuming they will understand. What people don’t want to admit is that they enjoy laughing at Karl because we are all as small-minded as he is, except most of us have more filters between our thought processes and our mouths than this silver-screen sensation might.

Bearing this in mind, my trip to the Maldives is one to be embraced in true Pilk

ington Spirit; I need to develop my own relationship with the culture and that can only be achieved through understanding how various pillars of British society, such as my tea and coffee, translate 5000 odd miles to the Maldives. Therefore remain open-minded, but also grounded in what I already know. Ultimately the reason why I am going is because I need to share what knowledge I have with people over there and as a result I have to keep a little British in me to fulfill the role of the foreign-rowing-coach-who-will-help-get-people-rowing, and to do that, I have to also keep a little bit of Karl in me too.






Eid Mubarak! It doesn’t get any better than this.

I can’t wait to get there…

Maldives Resort Workers

The picture depicts S. Meedhoo residents praying Eid prayer yesterday. The whole island men, women, children, strangers all gathered to pray eid in the beautiful morning in the island football ground. The prayer is a simple sermon admonishing people to do good and avoid evil. This is a welcome break from months of politicking and everyone enjoys a communal day of well wishing and befriending again after being glued to tv for some time. After the prayer, usually the youths will participate in a football match and girls will do a bashi (like tennis) match. The younger ones also get their own function with kiddies games arranged usually by everyone. Usually on Eid the senior folks walk from house to house chit chatting and enjoying each other’s hospitality till sunset. Its times like this when people realize how beautiful island life can be.

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I also read books…

On this gap year I have also made myself a promise: every day I will either a) exercise or b) read at least 50 pages of a book. It is going well so far…

I have done less exercise than I had hoped, but what that does mean is that I have managed to fit in some books. What books? Two books. Lady Chatterly’s Lover and NW by Zadie Smith. Both interested me hugely for various reasons.

Lawrence has intrigued me for a long time. Having read Sons and Lovers, the Rainbow and now this (I should have read Women in Love first to stay in order…) the picture of what he’s really trying to get at continues to expand. The Freudian tendencies of Paul Morel and the spiritual liberation of Ursula Brangwen form the cornerstones of Lord and Lady Chatterly, the former being far more pathetic than Morel while the latter represents a more polished version of Ursula. The three novels move towards focusing attention on the need to separate our social selves from our natural, as characterised by sexual in LCL, selves. Mellors’s “post-coital” reflections dwell upon the socioeconomic dilemmas that may stem from their natural “fucking” and it is only once Lady Chatterly disconnects herself from the loveless marriage and status (and therefore her title), she can actually go from being a “Lady” to a bona fide “woman” who can enjoy her “cunt” and making love and all the things that go with being happy. So to speak


I chose NW because I live in NW. I like reading about things that I can see on my street, it makes me feel like I understand my neighbours better; it’s quite a cathartic novel for me as it addresses the insecurity I’ve always had is that I have never really understood my area, Kilburn, and perhaps by reading some highbrow literature everything shall suddenly fall into place for me. I actually feel less in touch with it now than four days ago, due to the incredulous set of coincidences that link up four plots all held together by a backbone of Kilburn High road.

Lawrence called for leaving your society to discover yourself. Zadie Smith’s novel seemed to scream the opposite to me: disconnecting from your society to join another one alien to you is the worst thing you can do. Social mobility, through achievement and moving “near the park” for Keisha results in emotional destitution. She is someone who far surpassed her “artificial boundaries” by constructing a world around her which equates to success in the most modern sense; she is liberated sexually and socially, she can do what she want, she is Ursula Brangwen in that respect; but while you can never imagine Ursula longing to go back to the farm where she grew up, Natalie gravitates back to Keisha, the girl who grew up on the Caldwell estate. A ball thrown straight up into the air is how I see Keisha’s character: she starts from a point and goes on a trajectory, an impressive one, but ultimately no matter how hard she tries she will never be able to land where she was originally and instead she lands into “Natalie”, a stone’s throw away in the “posh bit” of Kilburn.

It was the last paragraph of the novel that made me think of Frederic Moreau in Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education:

Through the glass doors they watched the children spinning on the lawn…the whole process reminded her of nothign so much as those calls the two good friends used to make to boys they liked, back in the day, and always in a slightly hysterical state of mind, two heads pressed together over a headset. (NW Zadie Smith)


Frederick presented his as a lover does to his betrothed. But the heat, the fear of the unknown, and even the very pleasure of seeing at one glance so many women at his disposal, excited him so strangely that he turned exceedingly pale, and stood there without advancing a single step or uttering a word. All the girls burst out laughing, amused at his embarrassment. Fancying that they were ridiculing him, he ran away; and, as Frederick had the money, Deslauriers was obliged to follow him. They were observed leaving the house; and the episode furnished material for a bit of local gossip which was remembered three years later. They related the story to each other each supplementing the narrative where the other’s memory failed; and, when they had finished the tale:

“I believe that was the best time we ever had!” said Frederick.

“Well, perhaps! Yes, I, too, believe that was the best time we ever had,” said Deslauriers. (A Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert)

For both Smith and Flaubert life is ultimately a process of disillusionment. The murderer Nathan Bogle, one of the boys the two girls “liked” professes that “Everyone love a bredrin when he’s ten. After that he’s a problem. Can’t stay ten always”. And perhaps NW is not ultimately a book about Kilburn (it certainly isn’t about all of NW London!), but its about the struggle for a grasp on one’s identity: Natalie seeks a stasis in her life after she feels like she has been “eight for a hundred years and thirty-four for seven minutes”. A summary of the frustration is the surreal encounter between Felix and Annie, between a man who lives for the “next level”, who dies hours later and a woman who festers and stagnates in a life of nothing, yet who lives. The novel becomes deeply philosophically disturbing when you view it thus as does the premise of A Sentimental Education which Flaubert described visually: he held his two hands in a pyramid with a point to the top to demonstrate the basic idea of a conventional novel which is to reach the sublime; he then flipped the pyramid and said: “This is what my novel will do” and separated his hands. Both Smith and Flaubert go for this pulling the rug from under our feet, which is a bit depressing, but very interesting.

But two good books, lol.

An election, interrupted

Frustrated Self

5th Oct, 2013

After a promising start to the presidential elections in the Maldives, the fledgling democracy is floundering once again. The country’s Supreme Court has put on hold indefinitely a run-off that was scheduled for September 28 as it considers a petition by a candidate eliminated after the first round held earlier in the month. Mohammed Nasheed, who was ousted as President in controversial circumstances in February 2012, and is a candidate of the Maldivian Democratic Party, polled 45.45 per cent of the vote in the first round, while Abdulla Yaameen, a candidate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives, was placed a distant second. While the Supreme Court must address any grievances over the conduct of the polls, the delay in deciding the complaint of electoral fraud has given rise to speculation, rumours and political tension. It has also given room for doubts about the genuineness…

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Fake demos cost travel advisories against the country

To go with my last post.

Maldives Resort Workers

Basically it happens like this. The country is highly polarized with people pro and against controversial former president Anni. Approximately a little bit less than half of the population supports him while the rest are split between what could be termed as royalists (PPM) and progressives (JP coalition). So we have 3 major political thinking at the moment. The current hullabaloo about the case before Supreme Court is just a technical legal process which has to be completed whoever runs the show. There are many issues in the whole story including the personal lifestyle of a Supreme Court judge and the quality of evidence JP submitted against the first round of presidential elections. To summarize the whole story, it may be safely said that politicians are encouraging disruptive behavior by calling for tourism boycotts which are usually followed by unsuspecting politically naïve followers.

In resorts the political wheeling and dealing…

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