Updated: 2013-07-10 08:10
Raaisha Fhathimath lives in paradise, or to be precise, 200 meters from paradise.
The 11-year-old girl lives on K. Guraidhoo, a residency island in the Republic of the Maldives, a place often regarded as paradise by the thousands of tourists it attracts every year. Across a short stretch of water, a five-star resort is clearly visible.
From Raaisha's three-room concrete home, one can hear the music from the shore opposite, carried on a sweet tropical wind. The waters between Raaisha's home island and the resort are blue and shallow and the crossing looks as though it would be easy for any competent swimmer.
Her father is a security guard at a grocery store in Male, earning roughly 15,000 Ruffiya ($978) a month. The locals are entitled to discounts at the resorts, about 2,000 Ruffiya for a bed and board.
But Raaisha has never been to the resort, or indeed any of the local resorts, and not just because of the cost. "I'm just not interested," said Raaisha. "I really don't know why people pay so much to lie on the beach. The sun burns my skin."
This serious little girl doesn't like the ocean view either. "It would be better if the ocean were red," she said. Her favorite color is red.
The things she does like include dolphins, climbing trees and stargazing, even though the strong lights from the resort sometimes make it difficult to see the stars.
Life is slow on K. Guraidhoo. At 4 pm on Tuesday, all the adults were napping in hammocks they had slung in the shade of coconut trees. The local boys played soccer on a beach strewn with garbage washed up from the ocean.
Plastic bottles floated in the water. When the wind and currents changed, blowing the bottles toward the resort, workers dressed in white overalls picked up the trash as soon as it made landfall.
When the boys had finished their game, the island was so quiet one could hear the tiny crabs scuttling along the sandy street.
"I want to be a doctor, a gynecologist, because we don't have one on the island and their work helps women," said Raaisha.
- Peng Yining
(China Daily USA 07/10/2013 page7)