COVID 19, being ‘the most quoted term’ during the past few months, had its repercussions in every nuance of our lives. Little did we knew of the impact it could create, as we first heard the news of a malignant virus spreading across the globe, none could have anticipated the severity, so much so that in matter of days our whole life would take the topsy-turvy change.
It was only after the virus began its course to shake the world and especially when we were confronted with the figures of people losing their life, we woke to the realization that we are not an exception to the virus. Gradually, our lives also started to feel the shudder. Although the virus could not reach most of the areas of Maldives, the many of the protective measures initiated were common throughout the country. The one which directly affected the life of every person was indeed, the closing of the schools. Upon that #stayhome #staysafe slogans literally confined both kids and adults to their homes. It is evident that the ones who are most affected by this confinement were the kids. It could shatter their routine as there were no schools, no parks, no shops, no beaches, and no evening rides. Moreover, just staying within the four walls of the house is not an effortless task as it sounds. The only stuff kids had were the screens to entertain them (other than a few books on the shelves, where most of which they must have already read). However, keeping kids stuck to the screen 24/7 was never a choice.
Being a mother of three as well as an aunt to many, the last thing I would do will be to leave my kids just like that. So, we concluded that #physicaldistancing is okay but #mentalissolation is not. As we were thinking about various ways we could use to educate and at the same time get pleasure from these days, we decided on one rule. Within the family, we can meet each other but we will not go anywhere else even though there was no lockdown in Addu City. Here is a list of some interesting things we have tried during the last few months.
Lots of paintings and craft works
Happy to announce that, during the last 3 months our kids played with paper and color more than they ever did (other than using those for school work). I could see them making different toys, different kinds of games and even backdrops for various occasions, cakes for their birthdays and anything and everything which came to their minds. As for me, it was always fun to do things with kids, be it my own or my students. Honestly, I enjoyed every bit of it while they learned a lot through these activities. For me, anything they do away from the screens is a pleasure to watch.
Lots of cooking and barbecue
From corns, marshmallows, cakes, doughnuts to pizza there was nothing they did not try making by their own culinary skills. Out of all BBQ was their favorite. For many nights they made BBQ for their dinner. The most important members of their BBQ team are there aunts who never failed to entertain them throughout. With many of the aunts there is only one uncle who gets super excited every time they give him the news of BBQ. I imagine, for kids it happened to be a fun time especially when they get to enjoy with whole family while playing outside. Again, through these experiences, they must have learnt many real life lessons that would be needed in their future. I observed that, while doing these activities they tend to fight over the roles for each other, but at the end, it brought tears to me seeing how wonderfully they solved it among themselves without involving adults. The way the elder ones control the younger ones by dividing roles among themselves was indeed a great show. I was surprised to see how they could manage it every single time. The rule was simple, whatever was the issue among them they must solve it on their own, otherwise, the activity will be canceled. As it turned out, they did not have any choice other than solving it. I found that during the last 3 months our kids learned to be more tolerant, considerate about other’s feelings, and also developed skills to delegate work among each other more efficiently. I am sure, there were lots of useful lessons they learned, although being away from school.
Playing and exercise
There is no dispute on the fact that, outdoor play has an important role in the life of a growing child. Similarly, daily exercise is equally essential for a healthy lifestyle. Play and daily exercise became inevitable as we had to live confined to our homes. During this pandemic, playing outside in the front yard of our house became a routine for the kids. Simultaneously we started doing exercises every other day. I am glad that, from the first day of lock down till today we have been continuing our exercise classes. We made sure, we wouldn’t cancel that for “anything” which can be avoided in any possible way. It has been our fun hour where we sweat while laughing to the funny jokes of and for each other. Other than outdoor games, board games such as scrabble and chess became an essential part of a kid’s life. Out of all I enjoyed the exercise time a lot because I want neither them no me to add a few kilograms when we finish the lockdown and go back to our normal life.
During the time we had to spend at home we tried gardening too. It is something that is new to me and kids too. We never got the time to do gardening, so took the opportunity to experience it as well. Making compose from the leftover food to planting seeds, watering them, and taking care of the plants, kids did everything. It is a pleasure to watch how a little seed grows into a beautiful tree. Corn, chili, batana, tomato, brinjal and watermelon we tried planting everything. All did not turn out to be successful, but some are growing beautifully.
Experiencing some of the traditional food Making
As I look back, then being kids we were blessed with many privileges that our present-day kids may never get to experience. We had huge land areas around our house with all kinds of vegetable and fruit trees. We helped our parents in making different kinds of local food which are famous even now, yet the current generation does not have the slightest idea of how they are prepared. That is the moment I thought lockdown is the best time for me to give my kids the chance to experience how these foods can be made at home. So, we tried making various kinds of local food at home and I must say, our kids enjoyed both the making and eating part of it.
Hanaakuri Havaadhu is a mixture of spices used to make a curry powder which is very famous in Maldives. Some people even refer to it as Addu Havaadha. We as kids used to help our parents in making it and it happened to be a fun process. Though it is the favorite of many households of Addu City, I doubt, only a few will make it now as we all prefer to buy it from the shops and use it. As it being the favorite curry powder of my kids, I thought they should know how it is made. So we successfully prepared it and the whole Ramazaan we ate our own home made curry powder. Alhamdullilah.
Addu Bendi is another sweet food item which is unique to Addu. Addu Bendi is made of grated coconut, suger (traditionally toddy was used), and jasmine flavored water. Then it is wrapped in dry coconut leaf. But unfortunately, only a few among our youth know how it is prepared. I never tried it but as kid I saw my grandmother preparing it and I used to assist her in the process. So, I had a vague idea of how to do it. But to make sure we visited a lady who makes it and sells it even now. She was more than willing to give us the exact amount of ingredients and the procedure. Not only did we successfully make it, but it also turned out to be equally yummy. We all loved it.
This is one of the favorites of my kids when they eat garudhiya and rice. Though this is a quite common food item on the lunch tables of any Maldivian household, very few will dare to make it. So being bold enough I thought, the lockdown is the best time for kids to experience the process of making it. Theluli fai is usually made with Morainga leaves (sometimes other types are also used) and we were so lucky that we had the big Morainga tree at home. Theluli fai is made by deep frying the onions, garlic, dried chilies, dried tuna fish slices and, morainga leaves. The ingredients are deep fried separately, then the oil will be drained well and carefully mixed with salt. It can be stored in an airtight bottle for as long as a month. In fact, we have made it a few times and still have it in our stock. Kids enjoyed eating it.
Breadfruit slices, Breadfruit Bondibai, Geshi banbukeyo
During the season breadfruit is easily available in Addu city. When we were kids, we had lots of breadfruit trees in our backyard and our parents made various kinds of food using bread fruit. During the breadfruit season it used to be our main food. Breadfruit slices, breadfruit bondiba and geshi banbukeyo are quite common food items, made using breadfruit and also famous in Addu City. Most people will love these foods and even today we see it is prepared in many houses during breadfruit season. We were so lucky that breadfruit was abundantly available in Addu City during this lockdown time. So why wait to experience making it with the kids?
Breadfruit slices (theluli banbukeyo) Firstly, the skin around the breadfruit should be removed. Then it must be cut to quarters lengthwise. After that the dense middle part in each of the quarters will be cut and thrown. The quarters are then to cut as very thin slices and later fried in the oil. This can be stored in an airtight container for a very long time.
Breadfruit Bondibai (banbukeyo bondibai) After cleaning the breadfruit, it should be cut into very small cubes. Then cook with sugar, pandan leaves, coconut milk, 2-3 cardamom pods, small stick of cinnamon and Jasmine water.
Geshi bankeu (candid breadfruit) Geshi bankeu is similar to a sugar-coated candy. After cleaning the breadfruit, they are cooked in sugar till all the water is gone and the bread fruit slices are left sugar coated. This is one of the favorite breadfruit dishes of kids.
Kulhi Kaaja (Kudi Folhi)
Another favourite of our kids, although rarely seen anyone making it. It was surely, another great experience children had during the lock down. Onions, garlic, curry leaves, chilies, lime juice and salt along with rihaakuru and hikimas are mixed well. Then flour is added to the mixture until a nice dough is made. After making balls of the dough they are rolled to thin roshi and later cut into diamond shape pieces. These pieces are then fried in the oil till they are crunchy to eat. When served with black tea this becomes a favorite for most Maldivians.
With these activities and many more our children enjoyed the lockdown days, also they learned many lessons which will be useful in real life. We have few more in the list of things we want try doing, specially coconut oil and masmirus. In Sha Allah, we will try it soon. Although, we tried to fill in most of these days with physical activities, our kids did enjoy screen time too. I believe, screen time will also be beneficial, if done with proper planning for a limited time. Especially, watching documentaries, discovery channels and films are further useful ways to spend time when done under strict supervision.
I am no way suggesting that last 3 months were easy for any of us. Surely, it was mentally, emotionally and physically stressful. Staying home 24/7 without schools was indeed stressful, not only to kids but also for adults. However, when we think positively it was also a blessing in disguise. It was the rarest opportunity we got to spend time with our family and kids more than ever. We were able to do so many things which we never thought we would ever try. You can very well see our routine life has changed completely. In fact, the only concern we had was to think and schedule the time in a way that will benefit for both kids and adults. I would say, we did our best and also looking forward to doing similar activities in the future.
Learning is never limited to a place or a time. The best learning occurs when we attempt to fit to our real-life situations. It is my sincere prayer that, Allah s.w.t may deliver us from this ordeal in a near future and thereby allow us to get back to our normal lives.
About the Author: Dr. Asiyath Mohamed Didi is teacher who loves to learn through teaching. Interested in personal and professional development, teaching and learning, and leadership. An advocate of gender equity, women empowerment, positive mindset, and inclusivity (especially in the school system). Holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Education, presenter at conferences involves in research work and volunteers professional development and community empowerment session.