When I arrived in the floating kingdom, I had nothing much, could not afford one of the nicer homes and got a job with a small flat provided.
The flat was by most people standards OK, and was at least as good as anywhere I had stayed before but was completely underground, no windows, however as I only sleep in a flat and watch TV sometimes, it really did not make any difference.
The job was within the same island, so for the first few weeks I was working and living within the same island, we had a social club and like many new people I treated it a bit like a Spanish holiday, drank too much, with no tax the booze was cheap and there was not a lot else to do until we got paid.
Over the next few months It was much the same, except when we got paid we tended to go to the resort area for a weekend, and have odd nights out, very similar to the way people lived back home, just there was less traveling.
We were about a week away from a pay day when the boss pulled a group of us into his office, we didn't know what he had found out, so we were a bit worried.
We were, he told us about to get a day out, a VIP trip around some of the kingdom, well this was in works time, so this looked good. We joined a group of others from another island similar to ours and all set off in a water bus to a hotel within the resort complex, looked even better.
On arrival we all got shown into a conference room, while we would rather have gone to the bar, here were people from a lot more companies. On arrival we all got name badges and some vouchers.
A guy stood up, said he was part of the organizers of the kingdom, said his name was John and we were his guest for the day. We were just expecting to get a lecture when he said that we could use the yellow voucher in our pack to get as many drinks as we could carry then to return, not to the seat we were in now, but to the seat number on our badge. At that point the wall at one side of the room opened up to present a huge bar. Well I didn't expect that. I went and got as much as I could carry and returned to the seat. They had mixed us all up, so we were seated male female, all along the rows and with people of different nationalities and groups. Sit down and put your drinks down by your feet John said, and as soon as we had, the seats all started to move, spreading out the rows and tables popped up between.
I think it was some type of cabaret place, rather than a conference room. Next he told us to introduce ourselves to those around us and get to know each other. Some music was put on softly and we all got on great.
After about half an hour or so, the music was lowered, and John stood up, and I can still remember what he said "You have the choice now, you can use the red voucher to have more drinks in the bar in the hotel above, and the rest of the day off or choose to stay with me to discover what all the other vouchers are for". Only about half a dozen people left, the rest of us thought it had to be worth the gamble.
John then showed us a video, it started by showing us homes we all knew we could not afford, it showed us homes on the surface of the island with nice gardens, pools, and more, homes on an island with woods and streams, homes on the outside of islands with their own boat docks, and loads of room, homes with some rooms underground and a lift to a room on the surface or in a block in the air.
At that point he stopped the video. "These are homes for you if you want" he said, well I thought that was was just being stupid. He went on to explain how when the kingdom islands are built, the developers have to produce two, one they get to sell the other had to be given to the kingdom, and units are rented out to produce income instead of charging everyone tax. What a great idea we thought.
He went on to explain that our employers instead of providing us with flats were willing to give up a housing allowance, and that if we were to share several housing allowances this covered most of the rental. There was one slight problem though letting agencies would not let property to all male or all female groups as experience had shown they were a nuisance to neighbors and did not look after the property. He said "however I have great pleasure to introducing you to potential sharers sitting to your left and right", which was greeted by a mixture of laughter and excitement.
He put the music back on for a bit and allowed us to chat amongst ourselves, I found several I would like to have shared with, all the opposite sex.
Next came lunch, that was both provided and very good, and then we were broken into groups for a trip out actually looking at a variety of property, in most cases we were welcomed in to peoples homes as opposed to seeing empty places.
Back at the conference room later, we all chatted amongst ourselves swapped details and made arrangements to all meet up again.
We had some more food and drink provided and then found that the other tickets could be swapped for tickets for a variety shows and other entrance fees, but we had to present them either as a mixed pair or mixed group in order to change them, and at the same time another of the vouchers would be exchanged for a meal out with drinks for the same event.
In my case I got together with 3 others so there were two male and two female, all from different islands and we decided to make the most of it and get tickets to a musical we would not normally have spent the money going to see. We also were given water bus passes to and from and a voucher to go and buy an extra outfit to go out in from one of the shopping malls.
A few days later we all went out talked about what we had been shown some more got on well, and decided to look at some property.
Over the next couple of weeks we had a lot of fun looking at various properties and eventually decided on an island side apartment, which had four bedrooms, and was part of a community so gave us access to a pool and a wide range of other facilities. We hired some of the furnishings and each had some, so there was not a great deal to buy. Before long as you might expect we found two of the bedrooms were surplus, and rather than looking to bring in more people decided to see what we could move to, so 6 months after our first move we moved to another apartment in the same island that had two bedrooms, but was more spacious that was only one level down and had a sun room on the surface, this gave us access to both the facilities we had before but also to the surface shared areas, pool and more.
That was a year ago, and last week my partner and I got married and we have just moved into a small 2 bedroom surface house, with its own boat dock below, on a neighboring island.
Everyone is joking that at this rate another year and we will be looking for a house with a nursery, and I must admit the idea appeals.
The other couple who shared with us by the way split up, but both have new partners and we get on well still with both of them.
We both have got better jobs and we now have the income that allows us to go out more. Also over the last year we have done some courses on home management and budgeting, so over all our lives are now completely different. I have also just been asked by the others on my island to join their council, and was delighted to show others around my home recently who were being introduced to the possibilities just as we had.
I am even looking with a group of others at setting up a new trust to get involved in a new service business, so perhaps I shall soon be employing people and be able to help them to get their life together.
I often come across others who were at that meeting I attended, and all seem to be doing well. We often wonder what happened to the few who left the meeting, although I was told that 2 of them had gone back home as they did not want to work and the only dole here involves a form of workfare where people who are on benefits work for the community.
If I had not come out here, I very much doubt if any of these changes would have occurred, what I can say with confidence is that life here is excellent, the weather is good, people all nice, and the opportunities are here. More than that the approach is one of including you, helping you to move forward as opposed to criticizing you.
Copyright New Atlantis.