The Key Rescue Mission

The plan for the day was to get an early lunch and do some sightseeing with Mike. Mike was flying out this evening, so once we saw him off, we were going to have a quiet night alone. Karen and Alex from Fafner headed into town with us and joined us for lunch. We ate at a restaurant called Jade Café, a couple blocks down the street from Sea House. We had been told the food is good and the internet is free. Once again there was a large international menu, and the food was definitely better than the other two places we have eaten. Very unique and yummy smoothie and fruit juice flavor combos.

After lunch, the guys stayed and played on the internet while the women went grocery shopping. The market was farther west than we had explored on Friday, but except for a couple fancy government buildings and a park area in front of one of the government buildings, everything looked much the same as we had seen the other day.

They passed a tourist shop where the owner beckoned them in. We had never gotten a Maldives courtesy flag, so Christi asked what on would cost. The two shopkeepers said USD$30.00. The truth was we were contemplating stealing one of the zillions off the street, and weren’t ready to buy just yet. She just wanted to know out of curiosity. She started to walk off. The guys called her back to bargain. She said “My husband said I could only spend $10 on a flag, so if it is more than that, he will have to come back with me.” The two guys both said “you are a very good wife” and left Christi alone.

The store they went to is called Fantasy and is small, but surprisingly well stocked for such a small and uncluttered store. A block away is Fantasy Bakery, which was filled with yummy looking delicacies.

As we walked along, we kept a keen eye out for any possible signs of a celebration of some sort for today’s National Day holiday. As far as we could tell, nothing was going on. Johan had told us nothing would be happening today, but one can still hope to be lucky enough to be able to participate in a special local holiday tradition.

Karen and Alex had bought perishables, so they needed to head back to Fafner right away. Christi returned to Jade to collect the men. After a short discussion, Christi and Eric decided we were tired from yesterday’s late night, so we said our goodbyes to Mike and rushed off to the ferry to catch the incoming boat. Mike said he was going to go sightseeing for a couple hours, then would head over to the airport.

Back at Kosmos, Eric told Christi to unlock the door. Christi told Eric he had the key. Eric said “No, you have the key.” Then suddenly a bad feeling washed over us. Mike was the one who last locked the door, meaning chances are Mike had the key. Uh-oh. We pulled everything out of our backpacks. No key. We tried calling Mike on his cell a couple times to see if he had it, but the call wouldn’t go through. Shoot.

When Mike was figuring out his transportation to the airport, he was irritated to find out that, even though the airport is on Hulhumale, he wasn’t allowed to go to the airport via the road. The only way he was allowed to arrive was on a special ferry from Male. It seemed ridiculous that he had to take a ferry from Hulhumale to Male, get off the ferry, get on the ferry next door, then go back to Hulhumale, but time and again he was told that was his only option.

We hopped back in the dinghy and arrived at the Hulhumale terminal to find out we had just missed the ferry. Between the four ferry rides it would take to get to the airport and back and the wait time in between ferries, it would take a solid three to four hours to retrieve the key. And that was assuming we could even find Mike in the airport, which may not happen if he had already gone through the security checkpoint before we arrived. There had to be some way to get to the airport via the road. We asked the ferry cashier and she said there was no way to take the road. Argh.

Just then, we noticed a beautiful, petite young woman in professional attire walking past us towards the exit. She’s the kind of woman you look at a second time, and at the second glance, we saw that clipped to her lapel was a badge that said “AIRPORT” in big letters. Bingo. We asked her how to get into the airport via the road. She said only employees were allowed. We explained the situation and asked if there was any way an exception could be made. She said she would get the key for us. She immediately got on her cell phone and started making calls.

We all piled into a taxi and took the road to the gate to the airport, where the guard stopped us. We explained the situation and he said he couldn’t allow us in, but he could call the airline to ask them to get the key from Mike and hold it for us. That sounded good to us. Even though four hours of ferries wasn’t appealing, we would feel better knowing the key was waiting for us and hadn’t flown away before we could get there. The only problem was we weren’t sure of the airline or the flight time. We thought it was Singapore Air, but there was no flight that matched Mike’s destination. Shoot. While we were talking to the guard, our heroine (who shall remain nameless because we don’t know if she would get in trouble for helping us out) paid the cab fare and sent him off.

Just then, Mike called us. He had gone through security and found the key. His cell phone wasn’t working and he was calling us from a pay phone. And he was on Bangkok Air, so we were way off. Our heroine told Mike to take the key to her friend in a certain department, then called her friend back and told him the key was coming. Several minutes passed and we got a call from her friend saying the key had not arrived. Uh oh. Thank God, Mike called a few minutes later and told us he had dropped the key off somewhere else. Our heroine called her friend and had him run across the airport to retrieve it. We were so relieved to know the key wasn’t leaving the country.

At that point, we were ready to go back to the ferry terminal and for the 4 hour key schlep. But our heroine was insistent that she would bring the key to us and we didn’t need to go and get it. We had not realized just how far the distance was from where we were to the terminal, or that there were multiple check points. She spent quite a bit of time coordinating a relay of people and vehicles to run it from the terminal through the assorted check points to where we were waiting at the gate. She even enlisted the help of some employee who was waiting at the gate for his friend so they could head home together. The friend arrived within minutes, but the guys patiently waited until our heroine got the call that the person had made it to the check point closest to us. She hopped on the back of his scooter and they sped off, coming back a few minutes later with key in hand. The guys on the scooters waved and sped off as we yelled thank you to their retreating figures.

We were speechless and humbled by the whole string of events. A whole slew of people had jumped through ridiculous hoops to get a key to a couple of strangers who meant nothing to them. And the crazy thing is that we would never even see most of the players involved in the key rescue mission and never would have a chance to say thank you to them. Even the guys on the scooters probably didn’t hear the “thank you” over the roar of the engines.

As a thank you, we invited our heroine out to dinner. She called a cab and we went back to her apartment on Hulhumale, where she lives with her parents and some siblings. We hadn’t walked around Hulhumale yet. From what we saw, the majority of Hulhumale is vacant land scattered with trees, with only a few buildings, such as the ferry terminal, around. However, on the north east corner of the island is a cluster of development. There are few dozen apartment complexes that are three and four story and a handful of commercial buildings that are two and three stories, and a mosque. Since it was dark and we didn’t tour the entire area, we are not sure what else is around. All the buildings in this cluster are brand new and nice. The complexes have big yards, the roads and sidewalks are very wide, and there is a lot of construction going on. It is abundantly clear from the systematic look of the development that the urban planners have a master plan for this island and are working on making this the new urban hub.

Our heroine invited us in and had us wait in the living room while she changed. Each wall that we could see is painted a different color and the effect is bright and cheery. It is also a stark contrast to Johan’s place, which is all gleaming white, but equally cheerful. There were several chairs, a computer on a small computer desk, and a TV that was tuned into Islamic prayers.

She changed quickly and we walked a couple blocks to a new restaurant that she had not yet tried. The food was pretty good. We really enjoyed our time with her, learning a lot about the life and culture of Maldivians. Our heroine says that it was destiny that we met, because she normally takes the road home. She had just happened to go to visit a friend in Male after work, which is why she was getting off the ferry when she did. It was highly unusual for her to be at the ferry terminal when she was. We tend to agree that our meeting was destiny. In the month Mike was with us, he often locked the door and had always handed the key over. Today was the first time he had ever held onto the key.

3 thoughts on “The Key Rescue Mission”

  1. Your story reminds me of a time about 1993 when we were anchored in 15 feet of water off of Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas. I was in the dink waiting for my wife. She had locked the boat and tossed the keys to me. The key chain broke at that time and the boat key fell into the water. I spent about 2 hours hanging onto the swim platform as the boat swung with the wind. I finally spotted the key and retrieved it. After that, we kept a second key hidden.

  2. What a terrific story about the genuinely good nature of most people.

    Thanks for the great descriptions of what you’re seeing on your dives, by the way.

    And I appreciate hearing the stories of living aboard, and dealing with equipment and systems on the boat. (I harbor fantasies about one day living on a boat, so hearing your perspectives helps…)

    Best wishes for fair seas,

    DiveMasterMark in Florida

  3. It is wonderful to hear of your good fortune in meeting so many people that show their true hearts in goodnesses given to you. Usually if we take our own “blinders” off and accept other people and cultures “as equal to our own”, the world opens up some magnificent views for us. People of all kinds in the world have much goodness in their hearts. Unfortunately our “western arrogance”, mixed with a large dose of “naiveness” as so often displayed in our western media, does not show the good side of human nature. Goodness is not limited to one belief, race, religion or culture. Goodness and righteousness are not an exclusive gift given just to us.

    We seem to hate on a collective basis. On an individual basis, when we talk and meet people there is usually a quick loss of our fears and distrusts and we see they are real human beings the same as us with much commonality and heart. Blanket statements of another culture’s ills are totally wrong and needs to be ignored. When we judge other people, one must think of how our actions should be judged from their perspective.

    The day after the destruction of 9/11, we went to eat lunch at a local restaurant in the port area of Jakarta (the Capital of Indonesia and by far the world’s largest Muslim Country). Two young men from the Laskar Jihad were stopping cars in the road in front of the restaurant and asking for donations to help fund their campaigns in the eastern islands against their perceived persecutions from the Christians (and there had been so many horrible actions by both sides that one could understand their vexation with the situation). Our stacked carload of friends and family (all Indonesians) politely explained to them that to give monies to either side would just escalate the hatred and violence to no ones benefit, whereupon we all went on in to the restaurant.

    On the wall of the hot restaurant, a flickering TV was showing the horror of the planes hitting the World Trade Center and everyone’s eyes were glued to this oft repeated show of mass destruction. Soon the two young men of the Laskar Jihad, being hot and bored and curious as to having just met their first American, wandered in and joined our table and ordered ice tea. At first they carried an amount of young men’s arrogance and swagger but when they realized that we would accept them as equals, their attitudes soon dissipated.

    They had grown up in a poor Muslim ghetto in Jakarta and probably never went beyond grade school in formal education. In a very poor country one never asks such questions as, “What school or university did you go to?” They had a propaganda flyer of two written pages with them, which they had been giving to prospective donors. Even with very limited knowledge of the Indonesian language it was obvious that whoever wrote their propaganda sheet had a very limited education and it seemed that our two new acquaintances had no knowledge of its meanings.

    Whatever their knowledge, at first their views were hard and cold and their eyes continually flicked between the destruction to America shown on the TV and the reality of a real American setting besides them ——- an American who morally seemed to be nothing like their imagined view. Their views had been formed only by the unfiltered porn and other garbage coming down over unfiltered western satellites for their children to view and from a few hate mongers in their own neighborhoods. Within minutes after finding that we carried no hate and that we also wanted to hear their views and fears, one could sense their attitudes of hate and frustration dissolving within them. Within a half hour there were real tears streaming down their faces in sympathy to America in the 9/11 affair and each repeat showing of the Trade Center fires on the TV brought more tears —– not just about 9/11 but on how wrong their perception of what an American is like had been. There had been an amazing transformation within them and in front of the lunch time crowd of well over a hundred people they wrapped caring arms around me.

    The mind has revisited this scene a thousand times since and my own arrogances and righteousness has had to be revised in a hundred heart heavy ways. And there is a guilt built within now that does not want to be extinguished until the justification is found for my being a part of letting our own religious and political leaders become such bigots and haters of other peoples and cultures. Is it just their being naive, the same as I in the past? Or are our own leaders intent on only devising plans that sows more hate and despair? Can we Americans learn to see how many times our actions sow sorrows on others and learn to wrap our arms around those harmed, as did the men of the Jihad?

    I do not have the answers but there have been so many observations of “when we give the good from the heart ——– good usually returns to us”. And I know one lesson learned in the restaurant in Jakarta, “If there is no conversation between two peoples or countries, there can be no hope.”

    And I also know the story a marine guard told me at our American Embassy, about how the Indonesian People had asked them to put out a condolence book so they could write their sympathies to the American People in it. And soon the book had become totally illegible due to the hundreds of individuals having to write their sympathies over others in the full book — and they had come in the hot tropical sun to witness their caring for the American People.

    Sadly an accounting of the condolence book or of the hundreds of individual flowers lovingly placed in our Embassy fence by the Indonesian People (mainly Muslims) was never seen in any western news report.

    Sorry to linger so long and profess so much, Al

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