Bill Gates is moving into my neighborhood.
Yep, the quiet, sleepy confines of the part of this Indian Ocean island I call home is undergoing some huge, noisy and ugly changes, and there are billionaires’ fingerprints all over it.
Hardly a day passes without me being jolted out of contemplative blog-writing revelry by a blast of dynamite shattering granite boulders behind my house to smithereens … the dogs and kids are really fond of these terrifying booms, as I’m sure you’ll understand … and like the cannons in the William Tell Overture, the explosions merely add emphasis to the buzz of chain saws, the roar of dump trucks, the shouts of 850 imported Indian workers, and the pounding thrum of dozens of machines designed to move mountains and turn forests into roads and hillsides into villas.
It’s a Four Seasons Hotel project that’s going in … Four Seasons Seychelles, a hotel, plus a slew of multi-million dollar holiday homes … a company Mr. Gates recently moved into major shareholder-ship in.
Not featured yet on the web site, we will nonetheless be surrounded by extremely rich people within a relatively short period of mega-construction time.
How these people are to integrate with the local population, or how they’ll avoid doing just that, are topics of most conversations around here, as you can well imagine. Somehow, folks don’t see these newbies shopping at the local SMB franchise and being philosophical about a temporary dearth of onions or butter or toilet paper or milk or yogurt or salt or sugar or … well, you get the idea: we often live without stuff some could get used to always having on hand.
Then there’s the issue of beaches.
MY beach … meaning the one at the end of the road where I’ve been splashing around at least once a week for the past eleven years, and my husband has enjoyed since childhood … is soon to be surrounded by $6 million private homes. Any guesses as to how the owners of said homes will react to my friends and I tromping through their gardens with our snorkel gear and the kids’ pails and shovels? Of course, to do that we will have had to scale walls and avoid snazzy security equipment, I’m sure.
And what about the pickup-loads of Sunday picnic people; those festive folks who descend en mass after Mass ladened with boom boxes and barbecues for a fun-filled day of drinking and dancing and volleyball? Will they be welcomed with open arms by the super-rich Saudis and Russians who are already putting deposits down on these properties?
Um. I don’t think that’s likely.
Of course, maybe I’m jumping ahead to a scenario that won’t play out. Perhaps everyone will chip in with necessities when the shops run out of stuff and be happy as happy clams to share the beaches as we have always done… and maybe Bill and Melinda will invite my family over for sundowners on his veranda.
Sandra Hanks Benoiton writes on International Adoption and adopting as an Older Parent for Adoption.com, and on everything under the sun on Paradise Preoccupied from her sun-drenched veranda on the island of MahÃ© in the Indian Ocean.