Happy New Year 2023!
Alhamdhlillaahi! What a year had 2022 been for me! This was a year that many of my prayers were finally answered.
After months of planning and jumping over several hurdles thrown by Covid, I finally got married to the love of my life in early March. We had a lovely ceremony in Male’ with many of our friends and family attending. The wedding planning turned out to be a constrained satisfaction problem, having to balance the budget with all the costs of decorations, catering, venue, etc. While me and my wife had made most of the arrangements by ourselves, both of our families also contributed in their own ways. I am really happy with the end result, and I would forever remember the beautiful ceremony and am really grateful to everyone who helped out.
After the wedding, we jetted off to Turkey for our honeymoon, where I was able to experience snow for the first time in my life. We stayed in Istanbul at the lovely Meg Hotel for 5 days, visiting the beautiful Ottoman sites and enjoying the tasty Turkish food. After Istanbul, we flew to Cappadocia to ride the famous hot air balloons. Unfortunately, our balloon flight got cancelled because of the wind conditions. Even though Cappadocia was really beautiful, it was bitterly cold while we there with temperatures dropping to -11 °C and the cave hotel we were staying at wasn’t really our cup of tea. However, it was still an unforgettable experience and I hope to return some day to ride the hot air balloons when the weather is a bit warmer.
Apart from getting married, the next biggest event in my life in 2022 had been being awarded the Commonwealth Masters Scholarship to study Masters in the UK! That’s right, I am currently a student at the University of St. Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland, studying MSc Artificial Intelligence. After completing all the application and visa processes, I moved to Scotland in September. This had been my very first time in Europe (if you don’t count Turkey) and everything had been a real culture shock. The weather is so cold here that unlike Maldives, buildings here usually don’t have any fans or air conditioning and you literally just open your windows to cool your room using the natural cold air. The day-night cycle is also like a rollercoaster; when I first arrived here the sun rose around 6:20 AM and set around almost 8:00 PM, however now the sun rises around 8:45 AM and sets by 3:40 PM!. The bathrooms don’t have any bidets, and you’ve to get really creative to properly clean your bum. On weekdays I have to walk 20 minutes each way to reach my classes. With all the walking around and the lack of availability of cheap halal food (and me being too lazy to learn to cook) since I came here I have managed to lose over 7 kgs!
It had been a real change of pace to get back to academics after working at Javaabu for 6 years. And Alhamdhlillaahi, it seems I still have the touch to study. Most of the modules had been really interesting and I enjoyed getting my hands dirty with solving the problems in some of the assignments. It had also been nice to meet new people from the field. Surprisingly, the student body at St. Andrews doesn’t seem as internationally diverse as my previous university, with majority of international students coming from either India or China. This could be specific to the School of Computer Science or maybe I have not interacted with enough people (or statistically you are more likely to meet people from those 2 countries as they’ve the highest populations in the world).
It wouldn’t really have been possible to move away from work if it wasn’t for my great team at Javaabu and my business partner Jailam holding down the fort at home. Even though I am away studying, I have been remotely overseeing my team’s work. Sometimes it gets difficult with the time difference, with me having to attend meetings at even 5 AM somedays. However, work has enabled me to be less homesick and it had helped me be more productive.
Talking about Javaabu, Alhamdhlillaahi, 2022 was a very productive year for us. One of the major projects of the year was further development of Kiyeveni.mv and producing 9 more courses for the platform. Later in the year, Shaamilu Adu, a Dhivehi Text-to-Speech system we developed for Department of Inclusive Education (IED) to help blind and visually impaired students was officially launched as well. Some of the government websites we delivered this year include health.gov.mv, youth.gov.mv, cmda.gov.mv and fpa.gov.mv. We had delivered some other major internal systems as well and some public systems that are yet to be released. This year we made 2 new hires and towards the end of the year, we finally launched a new version of our Javaabu Academy website.
Apart from me, Alhamdhlillaahi 2022 had been a good year for my friends and family as well. In November, my younger sister finally graduated from her MBBS degree. My wife had also passed the first half of her MBBS final exam this year. And in October, my business partner Jailam, was awarded the National Youth Award in the area of Economy and Entrepreneurship for the work he had done at Javaabu. He and 2 other friends of mine were also blessed with new babies as well.
In terms of travel, after 2 years of the pandemic, finally in 2022 things generally calmed down in most countries. However, with the last wave of Covid-19 in Maldives, I finally caught the disease in February, right after I had received my booster dose. For the first 2 days I had high fever, but Alhamdhlillaahi, I fully recovered within 7 days without any complications or perceived long term effects. After the bout with Covid, I was generally free to travel after countries started to open their borders. I made 2 trips to Malaysia in 2022, first in late April, then in early July, both times during the Eid holidays to visit wife who’s studying there. The first time I stayed in KL, and the 2nd time I stayed in Seremban which was a new experience for me. Right before I came to the UK, I also made a short 4 day trip to my island in August to visit my family before I left the country.
Politically, 2022 had been another hectic year for Maldives. Most notable had been the falling out between the Former President Mohamed Nasheed and the current President Ibramih Mohamed Solih as Nasheed had wanted to change the Maldivian governing system to a Parliamentary system and assume the role of Prime Minister. This has essentially split the ruling MDP into 2 factions of pro-Nasheed and pro-Solih camps, with the pro-Solih camp seemingly having the upper hand. Towards the end of the year, the 2nd biggest upset in Maldivian politics had been the re-jailing of Former President Abdulla Yameen on bribery and money laundering charges. With these developments, it’s anybody’s guess how the 2023 Maldives Presidential Elections are going to turn out. It’s definitely going to be an interesting year indeed.
Enough of 2022, let’s talk about 2023 and take a moment to enjoy my New Year’s Eve tradition of light painting. This year I was by myself to take my annual photo. This was by far the coldest New Year’s Eve of my life with the temperature around 3 °C and my hands close to freezing while operating the camera. This time around, the back drop of the photo is the historic Quad at the University of St. Andrews. Originally built in the 1400s, the current buildings you see were redeveloped in the 1800s and the early 1900s. The Quad has many stories and traditions behind its buildings, and it’s a must visit spot if you ever drop by St. Andrews. You can download the full resolution image from my Flickr.
Hope you like my photo, and wish your 2023 would bring you many blessings and happiness! Cheers.