“They picked you, you can start to pack up.”
These – as a recap – were the words coming from my university when I was told I had to leave to Maldives, where I would spend my internship rising my colleagues’ heart-felt envy. My destination is an island one kilometre long and 200 metres wide, about forty minutes north by plane from the capital, Malé.
And Malé will be the first step of my journey, a necessary stop for the compulsory medical check. To get here you have to jump on a rickety boat packed with tourists and locals. My luggage ends up in the hold, close to the noisy engine. Others’ have it even worse, in the middle, in some kind of fence, ready to jump overboard at the first wave. The barefooted captain looks like a fisherman of a Japanese cartoon and doesn’t seem much worried about the boat’s condition.
Once at Malé’s port I cross a bunch of dhoni – the Maldivian traditional boats – and I start to have a feeling about the town. People shouting, screaming, throwing fish crates on the pavement, cars running a couple steps from the people… in one word: chaos. But nobody seems to be troubled about it, it’s an organized chaos where everyone knows what to do. The only peaceful place is the Parliament area, where the gardens are green and the palm trees swing by the wind.
‘Leave the luggage, we have to go!’
I have barely time to enter my room, the medical check is waiting for me. A taxi was waiting for me, the driver believes to be on a Formula One race track and starts.
A wild horde of motorcycles passes us from left and right. We drive in the middle of the road to give them enough room to pass and we almost brush against the cars coming from the opposite direction.
The Maldivian health system strikes me for its efficiency and care. In a few hours I go through all the steps and get back to my hotel. I cross three hospitals, a thousand traffic jams and risk my life at least three times because of the way people drive around here.
My fear of flying didn’t allow me to sleep, so I take a few hours rest. When I get out again the roads are dark. I need an adapter, I roam in the small alleys looking for an electronic shop. I walk over puddles, holes and dirt.
I start to feel a bit awkward, but the local people are not bothered at all by my presence, they keep talking among themselves in a language I will only come barely to understand by the end of my experience in the Maldives Islands. The only lights come from the few bars. Then a side door opens and I find my adapter.
I get back to my hotel, call at home and then I can finally sleep. But in the middle of the night a scream wakes me up. I spring on the bed and listen carefully to the street, but what I thought was a scream was just the muezzin’s call for praying.
In the islamic society the faithfuls pray five times a day, the first one at four o’clock in the morning. I curse, turn myself and tuck my head under the pillow. Goodnight Malé, if the boat tomorrow doesn’t sink I am ready for my Maldivian journey.