Friday, February 3, 2012

Come join me for an afternoon tea...Maldivian style!

If people ask me what I like most about living in Maldives, it is the afternoon-tea tradition. Just like in an English movie, where they show ladies in beautiful dresses, sitting on roses garden, sipping tea and enjoying snacks with their family. Maldivian has the same culture that passes on through generations for a very long time.

Sai boani or saibo as they call it, which translated as 'drink tea', is an enjoyable time where you take a few minutes break from your routine. In Maldives, you can expect most of cafes in the city will be crowded at 16.00-17.00 for this tradition. Workers will meet their friends to chat and enjoy their tea or coffee before finishing off works, mothers are busy on the local shop buying hedhika for the family, friends will visit other friends houses to hangout and have homemade hedhika together.

Hedhika is a traditional short-eats that accompany your tea-time in Maldives. The savoury hedhika comes in many shapes and color but the main ingredient is tuna, the country's best catch. Handhu gula is my favorite. Its a round shape fried rice flour dough filled with mixture of tuna, lime, chili and coconut. There is also baajiya (triangle shape tuna sambosa), boakiba (baked spicy tuna cake), cutlets (round shape tuna mixed with potato and chili), and many more. Sweet delicacies are becoming famous as well now to enjoy with your favorite tea.

Hedhika shop

For me who come from a busy city where keeping busy is a norm in every office, I found such tradition very unique. Taking break for Jakartans is not as simple as leaving the office for few minutes to have a tea outside. Most Jakarta workers spend 4-5 hours on the road battling the infamous traffic madness. Pavements are not pedestrians own as it has to be shared with impatient motorbikers, riding bicycle hurts your legs and lungs, and public transport is a mess. The government prefers to amuse frustrated Jakartans by building malls instead of parks and art center. A break for Jakarta workers is a luxury, and to escape from the city can be pricey.

For most women in Jakarta, to work or to be a stay-at-home mom can be a very tough decision to make. Some family can't survive with only 1 income, but not to be able to see your children more than 12 hours a days is unbearable. In a growing digital world like today, most of employer in Jakarta still expect to have their employee appear in the office working behind their desk throughout working hours. Jakarta workers must envy Maldivians.

However the tradition can become very annoying for some people. Some just can't be too relax when it comes to work, especially deadlines. Some found Saibo makes people become less productive and wasting other people's time.

Most Maldivian fathers will take morning break for Saibo or breakfast, work for 1-2 hours, then take another break to pick up their kids from school. 12.00 is praying and lunch time, then they will work until 16.00 where afternoon-tea break comes. By the time they come back to office, the office hour will be finished in few minutes. Not to mention prayer-time-break where some workers whose house are close to office can easily go home to pray and 'steal' some break time.

During afternoon-tea, you can see a very long queue in big hedhika shop

I say life is best to enjoy stress-free. Whether it is by taking holiday, listening to music while working, taking nap with kids, or having tea with friends. I doubt if most of employer in Jakarta can ever adopt this stress-free culture. I hope soon Jakarta employers will realize that works can be done productively, not only behind the desk, but from anywhere, with just a laptop. And I hope Jakarta workers can find a way to way to enjoy a little break during office hours. Although a small nap during praying time wont hurt :)

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