Footnotes From Maldives with Larasati Silalahi


(My very last footnote before coming home on the 30th of November 09)


If you think caterpillar bite isn’t bad enough, let me share a story of a J-town girl being quarantined for twenty one days as she was diagnosed with chicken pox. Last time I checked, chicken pox can only happen once in a lifetime which in my case it did happen for the second time – let’s not doubt the doctor’s analysis here, most probably Maldives has a different kind of chicken pox that goes after cool and sassy people. I’m just grateful that I suffered from an illness that has an animal name such as ‘chicken’ instead of ‘bird’ or ‘swine’.


For most people, twenty one days could be a disaster, but for me it’s more like a rest – at first – then it turned out to be so very much boring, then it got into a suicidal stage on the third day, so I decided to do something fun or new. My first attempt of doing something fun didn’t last long, I finished reading “Eat Pray Love” in only two days, then I started watching TV shows, the all seasons of “Sarah Silverman Program”, “The IT Crowd” (that was when I realized that I really enjoy British comedy), and “Arrested Development” which only took me more less a week.


In the process of finishing 1000 jigsaw puzzles, my not-so-creative-chicken-pox-brain came up with a pretty brilliant idea. I wanted to get personal with the people I didn’t really hang out with. First, I started chit-chatting with some fellows from Maldives and Bangladesh – Harry the dingy captain who always took me to Guraidhoo by boat, Joynal the Welfare Coordinator who always accompanied me to see the doctor and managed to deliver my everyday meals, and Mumthaz the maintenance guy who happened to go pass my room every morning (he’s not supposed to be in contact with the quarantined girl, by the way, but he insisted to be my friend and put his life at stake *sobbing*).


Here are my analysis so far: the three guys are still single in their late twenties (and that is by choice), which in their cultures considered uncommon, most people get married in a very early age, especially the girls – once you hit 18 years old, you’re basically sold. Joynal just got out of a relationship; Harry prefers to wait until he meets the right girl, while Mumthaz is ignoring numerous Maldivian chicks that have tried different types of flirting at him. He said he’s not into them, he fancies Indonesian girls. Anyone?


Harry also owns a shop in Guraidhoo, he took me there once and gave me a very pretty scarf, which I liked so much. He’s for sure a very generous man – once he also gave some freebies to my mom and gave me a sari for my birthday. One thing you also need to know about Guraidhoo shops is their unique opening hours. Since the very last tsunami that happened, people in Guraidhoo started to have a roster in order to treat every shop owner fairly. The tourists won’t be able to shop to just anywhere because there are certain shops that are closed according to what’s scheduled.

(City Snack- Cafe in male)


Joynal told me that in Bangladesh, everything is fairly cheap. I bought a sandal from Male the other day; it cost me US$20, which according to Joynal’s estimation, it would only cost around US$5 in Bangladesh. Well, at the end of the day it didn’t really matter anymore as I saw ‘Made In Indonesia’ line written on the back of the sandal and, wait for it, a Rp. 79.000,- tag on it! Bummer!


If it’s not because of those three guys, I wouldn’t be able to recover from my chicken pox in a very short period of time (believe me, for others it could be longer than this!). Lastly, all I can say that I’ve learned lots of stuff during the twenty one days – like the probability that what I had wasn’t chicken pox, but shingles (a skin rash often forming a girdle around the middle of the body that is caused by the same virus as chicken pox’s) or the joy of learning a new kind of language, which is Maldivian. I learned many useful words such as ‘sukuria’ which means ‘thank you’, ‘vaavarun loabi’ which means ‘I love you’, and also ‘dane’ which means ‘good bye’. Hey, that one rings a bell! Reminds me of ‘Dah neeeeiiik’!

(Sunset in Male Jety)