Shopping Madness in Manchester

Sep 27, 2010

The last time that I went to Manchester was back in February. It was my 3rd layover, a chilly 2 degrees, and I was the sickest that I'd been in years. I knew 10 minutes after take off that I should have called in sick for the flight and I was forced to spend the next 7 hours suffering.
Flash forward 7 months, and I was finally returning to Manchester... this time in far better health. The flight was surprisingly calm for a normally chaotic service. As the 380 only started flights to Manchester at the beginning of the month, it's still quite new and exciting and the novelty is far from wearing off. As we landed we could spot what was probably a hundred people gathered for a chance to see the big bird touch down. We bragged non-stop about our beautiful plane, much to the delight of our enthusiastic passengers.
I'd been up since 3 am and could barely keep my eyes open, but I was determined to venture into the city and make the most of my layover. I met up with a group of girls and split the cost of a shuttle bus to take us directly into the city. I was on a mission to shop and didn't want to be held back by the others, so we agreed to split up and do our own thing.
I spent awhile wandering the city in the cool autumn air. It was 10 degrees but my Dubai-acclimatized body was absolutely freezing. I stopped in several shops for a quick chance to warm up. It was a Saturday and the streets were packed with people. Stalls of fruit and handicrafts were scattered around and I was tempted to buy every pack of strawberries as they were about 1/4 of the price that they would be in Dubai. Instead I opted for one pack of blueberries to eat for breakfast the next morning. I was starving so I found a food court and headed straight for Subway. Apparently my accent is difficult to understand, because I asked for a turkey breast sub, not toasted and received a toasted chicken sandwich instead. Oh well. Once I'd finished eating I smiled as I saw trees with orange leaves (I love fall!), hugged a man holding a "Free hugs" sign, wandered by the cathedral and ferris wheel and took more of the same photos that I've already took.
I'm desperately trying to eat healthier, but I was cold and in need of something comfort food, so I headed to Starbucks to grab a nice warm hot chocolate. I justified it by the fact that I hadn't sat down once on the flight. That's just as good as an hour on the treadmill if you ask me!
Finally, I was ready for the main event.... PRIMARK!
I recently discovered this shopping paradise that makes UK flights so much more exciting. They have every item of clothing that you could possibly ask for, for ridiculously low prices. I grabbed a basket and quickly started filling it with everything. Sweaters, mittens, scarves, socks, boots, pajamas, and an endless supply of nylons to wear to work. Once I was finally satisfied that I'd grabbed enough, I headed to the checkout and forked over a large portion of my meal allowance. I get paid to shop around the world. It's times like these that I love my job. The rest of the girls had caught the shuttle back at 6:30 pm, and I'd told them not to wait if I wasn't there. It was now 8 and I was glad that I'd took my time and enjoyed my day. Hauling my purchases down the street I headed for the train station, passing by rowdy fans shouting "GO UNITED!" as they geared up for a game night.
I hopped on the train and made my way back to the hotel where I threw my bags on the floor, took a bubble bath, and then crawled into the amazingly dream-like bed. All in a day's work!

Crazy in Korea

Sep 22, 2010

After nearly 2 weeks without a flight I was extremely excited to hop on a plane and get the heck out of Dubai. Even more exciting was the fact that I was headed to Seoul, South Korea... a brand new destination for me! I thought of all of my Korean friends that I'd met in my days of being a backpacker in Australia and figured that if the whole country was as awesome as they were, I was in for a great time.
Early in the morning I made my way to the airport, cursing the flight for having a 3 am departure time. I talked non-stop for the entire flight about how excited I was to go fill myself up with delicious Korean food, but by the time we arrived at the hotel I had one thing on my mind... sleep. Napping after a flight is generally something that I am very much against, as I know that the snooze button will always override my adventurous spirit and I'll find myself sleeping instead of enjoying my time as I'd hoped to. Despite this, I knew there was no way I was capable of sitting through dinner and making conversation with the crew in my current level of consciousness. We agreed to meet 2 hours later, giving us plenty of time for showers and brief naps.
I was starving by the time that I made my way down to the lobby. In typical cabin crew fashion, most of the people joining us showed up late. We tried to convince as many as we could to join us. Our persuasive powers brought our group total to 5, and we set out in search of a feast. We walked down colorfully lit streets lined with restaurants and bars until we reached one that our first officer promised was great. It was also one of the few that was open, as it was a national holiday in the country.
The waiter led us to a table and we sat back as the 2 crew who frequent Korean barbeques ordered for all of us. The rest of us were newbies to this form of dining and we excitedly snapped photos as the staff placed a grill over the hot charcoals in the center of the table. Feeling adventurous, I sampled all of the salads, soup, and kimchee spread across the table. We were delivered a plate full of thin sliced marinated beef and pork strips, which were placed on the grill to cook right in front of us. Once the meat was fully cooked we wrapped it in lettuce and filled it with condiments, and chowed down. It was amazing! I convinced myself that it was relatively healthy as everything was grilled rather than fried in oil, not to mention wrapped in lettuce as opposed to bread. I figured that this justified my right to eat mass amounts of the delicious food. I was quite content sipping my water when the rest of the crew ordered a bottle of "Soju"... Korean rice wine. They insisted that I have some, so I thought "Why not?" After all, I was having a brand new cultural experience. They poured the clear white liquid into shot glasses and we cheers-ed to a great night with great people... and of course, great food. Unsure of what to expect, I downed my portion and cringed. It tasted like watered down vodka! Yuck! Despite this, I found myself sipping another shot glass full to evenly finish off the bottle. I'm not sure what was in that stuff, but it made my laziness disappear and after dinner I was eager to head to the next venue. A few crew wanted to dance, and I was quick to shoot down this idea. I do not dance, especially in nightclubs in countries I've never been to. I had something much better in mind. "Guys, let's find karaoke!", I suggested, waiting for complaints from the rest. I was shocked when they actually agreed. We paid for our meals and headed out into the pouring rain in search of a place to sing. We wandered into a convenience store where we asked the first person we saw if he knew were we could find karaoke. He spoke limited English, but the word was clearly in his vocabulary. He led us down a road and pointed at a dimly lit building. We glanced at eachother with a small amount of uncertainty before thanking him and heading inside. I could vaguely hear the sound of an offkey singer and knew that we were in the right place. Karaoke is a major part of my life in Canada, so here in a karaoke loving culture on the other side of the world I felt at home. The difference between Asia and North America is that in Asia you rent out "karaoke boxes"... rooms with a TV and karaoke equipment to sing amongst small groups of friends. Still soaking wet from the rain, we made ourselves at home in our box as I flipped through the song books in search of English songs. After a terrible rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody", I was dying of thirst, so I poured myself a glass of water. Well, at least I thought it was water. As I swallowed a huge gulp I realized that it was in fact Soju and that somebody had ordered more. Blech. While the rest of the crew drank themselves silly, I ordered a much more refreshing apple juice. After a couple of hours and many butchered songs, we decided to call it a night. Half of the crew were still in the mood for dancing, while myself and another girl insisted that we needed sleep. We made our way back to the hotel, and I could barely find the energy to brush my teeth and wash my face before falling into bed.
6 hours later, I found myself awake at 7 am. I tried to fall back asleep but it wasn't working, so I gave up and dragged myself to the shower. I was disappointed when I opened the blinds to find that it was pouring rain. I wasn't entirely surprised, as a typhoon was causing havoc not too far north of my current location. Not only was it wet and miserable, but the holiday meant that absolutely nothing was open... not even the business center where I was entitled to an hour of free internet. Determined to enjoy my day, I set out in the rain to see the city in daylight. The temperature was a perfect 24 degrees Celsius as I wandered the streets, taking in the sights and enjoying the abundance of maple trees. I was in the mood for something to satisfy my hunger, so I walked into a cafe with English on the menu and attempted to order a sandwich. After many attempts and even pointing to the item on the menu, I realized that the poor employee didn't speak a word of English and gave up. Every other restaurant that I'd walked past had been closed, so I sighed and proceeded to the Dunkin' Donuts down the road with a bright red "Open" sign. I'd been eating healthy for a couple of weeks and even gotten back into the habit of going to the gym. Walking into a donut shop was cringe-worthy, but I was hungry. I settled on a blueberry bagel as I took advantage of free wireless internet to send a quick email to Ryan.
There was so much more that I wanted to see and do, but the weather and the fact that everything was closed limited my options. I took comfort in the fact that I'll likely be returning to Seoul quite often now that I'm on the A380. Feeling sleepy, I headed back to my room where I napped (waking up a few times to the sound of thunder!) until it was time to get ready for my flight. Boy am I glad that I did. It was a 9 hour flight back to Dubai. Back in the desert I was shocked to hear that the temperature was only 29 degrees!! Less than 30?! Mind you, with the humidity it felt closer to 37, and it was 4 in the morning... but I was still thrilled. It was a sure sign that the worst of the heat is over. In the comfort of my apartment I headed to bed at 7 am....craving more Korean barbeque. Mmm. My tastebuds can't wait for my next trip to Seoul!

Just get me on a plane already.

Sep 17, 2010

It's been 10 days since I've been on a plane, and I still have 2 more to go until my next flight! Not by choice, might I add. Since calling in sick for my Sydney flight (which I'm still devastated about!), I've been handed a pile of days off and airport standbys. Of course, I haven't been pulled out for any flights and now that I'm much healthier the boredom is starting to get to me!
Dubai can be a lonely place.
I have some really great friends here in my desert home, but they are all cabin crew. Like I am supposed to be doing, they are busy flying around the world. I've managed to see a few friends for coffee and lunch dates, but aside from that, I've been all by my lonesome.
Endless hours of spare time has lead to a great deal of thinking, and I had to ask the question... how do people do it?! I like to think that I'm a pretty strong person and capable of living thousands of miles from the people that I love. Despite this, I still am prone to the occasional emotional breakdown in which I sit in my room and cry and wonder why I'm living so far away when I could be back home surrounded by people who love me and have plenty of time to visit me. Some crew have been here for many years. They consider Dubai to be "home", despite rarely seeing their families or friends that they left behind. I suppose having a boyfriend in Canada does make it a bit harder for me than it might be for some of the single people, but I still don't know how they do it. I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I won't be home for Thanksgiving this year, or for Christmas or New Years for the second year in a row. How some people do this year after year and don't seem to let it bother them one bit is beyond me. I'm really looking forward to the day that I can spend December baking Christmas goodies to fatten Ryan up and decorating my house with excessive festive decor.
Please don't misinterpret this as "Krysta is homesick, she's moving home!" because that is not the case, not yet. Now that I've rambled on for a good amount of time, I'll get to the point of this entire post:
I'm jealous of you too.
As I'm sure you can imagine, I constantly hear remarks such as "You are so lucky!" or "I wish that I could go to all of these places that you do!". On almost a daily basis I hear "I'm so jealous of you."
Well, my jealous friends, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that sometimes I long for a normal life just like you all have. Simple pleasures like Sunday dinner with the family, or taking your puppy for a walk, or going on a date with your boyfriend... these are all things that I've had to sacrifice to be where I am right now. This isn't to say that I don't love my job or that I regret moving to Dubai... it's just to say that the grass always seems greener on the other side, but I can confirm that this isn't always true. I'll admit, sometimes it is. Much greener. Other times... well, there is no grass at all. I live in the desert, remember?

Sad Days

Sep 12, 2010

The highlight of my month's roster was without a doubt my Sydney/Auckland trip. I was extremely excited for 6 whole days away from the sandpit in 2 of my most favorite destinations! My suitcase was packed and I had big plans to spend my days enjoying the fresh air, taking as many photos as I could, and most importantly... indulging in fresh sushi.
The day before the flight I was battling a nasty cold. I set off in search of any cold medicine to magically make me healthy overnight. Medicated and drowsy, I was able to have a nice 9 hour sleep prior to the flight.
I woke up the next morning at 5 am, ready to ditch Dubai. Unfortunately, no amount of sleep and medicine was going to defeat this cold. I was completely congested and my voice was cracking. At any of my previous jobs, I would have sucked it up headed to work, but I've flown sick before. I've felt the excruciating ear and sinus pain. I've brushed it aside only to lose my voice shortly after take off, making for an extremely long and miserable flight. Despite this knowledge, there was no way I wanted to be stuck in Dubai. Perhaps a shower would make me feel better? So I proceeded to shower and get ready for my flight as per usual. It was no use. Even after a long night's sleep, I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed and lie there all day. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew that a 14 hour flight would only make me far more ill. I reluctantly called the duty reporter and sadly informed her that I was reporting sick for my flight. "Okay, I'll remove Sydney from your roster", she replied. I was a little bit heartbroken as I headed back to sleep for a few more hours.
Here I am, stuck in Dubai. Just wishing I was fit to fly.

Time Flies When You Fly

Sep 10, 2010

As of this weekend I will have been a resident of dusty Dubai for 9 months.... 9 months! Where does the time go? It's been a crazy journey.
Too often I forget about how excited I was to get this job, and all of the time and effort that I put into getting here. Do I take it for granted? Sure, sometimes I probably do. I'm fully aware of how lucky I am, but admittedly I wake up some mornings and think "Ugh... 3 am..." when I should be thinking "Yay, I'm going to Sydney!". I still love what I do, but the glamour aspect faded awhile back... sometime between clearing meal trays and holding back hurt feelings from hearing some of the nasty things some passengers say when they are upset. Add this to the fact that I'm living in the Middle East over 11,000 kilometres from my family, friends and the love of my life... and well, you can understand why from time to time, I complain.
The thing is, I realize that there are thousands of people who would give anything to be in my red shoes. Some of them even faithfully read my blog. After a good rant, I often feel guilty because I can just imagine how I'm making them feel. I think back to before I was crew... if I was reading the blog of a girl who had everything that I was dreaming of and complaining about it, I'm sure I'd be a bit irritated. Recently a lovely Twitter friend of mine made it to the final stage of interviews for my airline, and then received a sad letter informing him that he hadn't been successful. He was heartbroken, and there I was complaining about the fact that I didn't get the flights that I wanted this month. Talk about foot in mouth.
I don't want to put off potential future crew because of my often negative opinions. Let's face it.. a job is a job. There will always be good days and bad days. I'm fortunate to have a career in which the good days outnumber the bad, by far. So while I can't guarantee that I will never complain again, I can assure you all that I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be where I am right now. When all is said and done, I'll admit that I probably won't stay here as long as I originally intended to. It has nothing to do with the job, it's just a part of me growing up and realizing that maybe home isn't such a bad place after all. That's not to say I want to give up flying... if I get my way I'll land a job with a nice domestic airline and still spend my life flying... just a little bit closer to home and the people that I love. For those of you who are trying to become crew, don't give up . It took me 4 years to get here, and I had my share of let downs along the way. For those who are wondering... is it worth it?? Well.... here is a glimpse of the past 9 months of my life... you be the judge.

A New Chapter.

Sep 7, 2010

August seemed like the month that would never end. After a couple of weeks at the Training College followed by a week of downtime, I was looking forward to a new month on a new aircraft. After 3 weeks on ground it was finally time for me to take to the skies once again.
The night before my trip to London, I sat awake in bed, unable to fall asleep. I was excited for a new chapter of my flight attendant career. The A380 is the newest and the most advanced aircraft in existence, and I was about to become one of the very few privileged enough to call it my office. In equal proportion to my excitement was my nervousness. While over 10,000 crew work on the main fleet, only 1,500 work on the A380. There are crew that I have flown with that I'll likely never see again in my entire life, but on this new fleet, everyone knows everyone, and nobody knows me. Would they accept me into their close-knit "family"? I felt like a child on the first day of school in a small town.
With only 4 hours of sleep I reluctantly left my apartment at 5 in the morning. Upon arriving in the briefing room, I was overwhelmed as the crew excitedly chatted and enthusiastically greeted one another. Once I'd announced that it was my very first flight, I was cheerfully welcomed to the team. As we stepped onboard I knew I'd made the right decision. Everyone was so helpful and friendly when it came to my many questions. When it came to the service, it was no different than the main fleet, my only struggle was locating items in the galley. The aircraft is beautiful, and passengers continuously asked questions about the capacity and the much talked about shower spas. For the first time in awhile I felt very proud to have my job.
We landed in London and I was looking forward to getting to my hotel and grabbing a much needed cup of coffee. The rest of the crew appeared to be just as exhausted, and we all groaned in frustration when we were informed that we had been selected for a baggage check. Each and every one of us stood in line as customs officials opened and searched our handbags, cabin bags, and suitcases. For 26 crew, it was no quick task. We were finally sent on our way, much later than anticipated.
From what I'd heard, the majority of the crew had planned to stay in the hotel and spend their layover sleeping. Of course, this was simply not acceptable for me. I washed off my makeup, changed into a pair of jeans and set out with my camera in hand. At the concierge desk I bumped into two other crew members who were also planning on heading to the city. I was a bit relieved and decided to take the train with them, as the London Tube system is not the easiest to navigate. While we waited for a bus, we ran into some of the others who were headed out for dinner. Among them was Mohamed from Egypt, who reconsidered his plans after hearing that we were headed into the city. In 5 years of flying he'd yet to see it. He decided to tag along with us, and we headed off to the station. Heathrow Airport is a fair distance from the city. We fought to keep our eyes open on the long train ride. I didn't really have a plan, aside from finding the nearest Starbucks and taking photos. I'd been to the tourist sights, so I had planned on separating from the others as they went to do the mandatory sightseeing. However, my fatigue and lack of ambition convinced me to stick with them instead of worrying about getting lost trying to make it back to the hotel later on. Knowing that I'd be returning to London at the end of the month, I decided to play tour guide this trip. We got off the train at the station near the Tower Bridge. I remembered my first trip to London and the excitement I'd had seeing the touristy landmark, but this time it was outweighed by my joy in seeing the green umbrellas of a Starbucks down the street. I'd made it very clear that as soon as I spotted it, I was running for a caffeine fix, so the others followed along as I happily stood in line. Satisfied and caffeinated, we walked to get the best view of the bridge.
Tragedy struck when Lin realized that she had forgotten a memory card for her camera. It was her very first layover, and such an event really puts a damper on the excitement. Despite ensuring her that I'd send her all of the photos and forcing her to pose in front of double decker buses and inside telephone booths, she was still upset and the girls decided to set out in search of a store that would sell a card. I found myself alone with Mohamed, who was up for going anywhere. Knowing full well that he'd likely never venture this far from the hotel again, I felt it my mission to show him as much of London as I could in the short period of time.
We hopped back on the Tube and I expertly navigated the way to Big Ben. Clearly impressed, he posed in front of the giant clock tower as I took his photo. He didn't have a camera with him... something unimaginable for me. I rarely leave the house without at least my small camera. We walked alongside the River Thames, passing by the London Eye and flocks of tourists. By this point we were absolutely starving, so we set off in search of dinner. We stopped at the first place we found that looked appealing.. a cute little place called "Enough to Feed an Elephant!". The name seemed appropriate for my level of hunger. I chose a giant jacket potato (that's baked potato to us Canadian folk), loaded with cheese and broccoli. Accustomed to Ramadan in Dubai, I felt so free being able to eat in public in broad daylight.
My lack of sleep was catching up to me, and we both decided that we'd begin to make our way back to the hotel for an early night. On the way to the station I stopped several times for more photos of Big Ben, despite having photographed the exact same thing many times before. With every few feet, I saw it from a different angle, and I couldn't possibly just keep walking!
The train was packed, and I was a bit intimidated by the fact that Mohamed had put all of his trust in me to find our way back to the hotel. Fortunately, I'd jumped on the right train and we safely made it back just as the sun was setting.
I relaxed in a hot bubble bath and then crawled into bed. It was only 8 pm, but I couldn't possibly stay awake any longer. I dozed off, and slept until 8 the next morning!
I felt great, and my body was thanking me for the much needed rest. I packed up my suitcase to return to Dubai. Normally I hate leaving, but I'd had such a great flight on the way that I was looking forward to boarding the big bird once again!
And so I flew back to the desert after a great mini-getaway. It's good to be back!