walking in the clouds

Aug 30, 2012

Training was over, and there was one final step for me on my journey to becoming a full fledged flight attendant for my new airline... flying solo.  By solo, I don't mean myself alone, on a plane. I was joined by crew and passengers, but without the familiarity of my classmates and instructors, I truly felt like I was all by myself on this great big scary adventure. The training wheels were off.  It was time to put to action all that I'd learnt.  
I'm not sure why I felt so nervous, especially given my aviation background. I know the safety aspects of my job inside out, which is what is most important. Service and routines will come with time and practice.  
I arrived for my first day and met up with my training flight attendant. She'd show me the ropes and answer my multitude of questions. It was going to be a long, long day. We met at 6:15 am and wouldn't return until 8 pm that evening.  I survived the first stressful few flights as we ventured up to Yellowknife, Norman Wells, and finally, Inuvik. I was the furthest north that I had ever landed. We were north of the Arctic Circle and Autumn was showing its colours already.  The air was cool, and fresh, far from the pollution of big cities. This was a completely different world. We continued on our day, flying all the way back to Edmonton, where I drove home and collapsed into a zombie-like state on the couch.   Flying is exhausting. I actually enjoyed the insane fatigue for once... it meant that I was back to the old me. The tired, dazed and confused me.... the flight attendant me.
One day down, and one to go before I was finished my familiarization flights and sent off to work like everyone else.  
My second day was far easier.  I showed up expecting 4 short flights, and was giddy to discover that the first and last leg were empty flights... known in the industry as "fairy flights".  We were simply bringing the aircraft to the destination to pick up the passengers there.  We sat back as we flew to a remote oilsands airport to pick up a plane full of charter passengers heading home for days off. We took them back to Edmonton, dropped half of them off, and continued on to Calgary. Our passengers went home, and most of our work was over. We'd fairy the flight back to Edmonton and call it a night.  As we approached the airport, I was invited into the flight deck to sit for landing... my favourite!! I've been fortunate to have had this opportunity many times in the past, but it really never grows old. I watched happily as we aligned with the runway and landed. Home, sweet home, with a spectacular view!
I was signed off as an official crew member and sent on my way! Next flight, I'm no different than any other flight attendant. The prospect thrills and terrifies me all at the same time. 
Until then, I'm enjoying my time between flights cuddling with my favourite ball of fur! 

meet niko!!

Aug 24, 2012

Something amazing happened today. My life became complete.  
After months of persistence, my husband recently agreed to let me get a puppy. It's all that I could talk about or think about, and I'm pretty sure that he was sick of hearing about it.
Today, I picked up my brand new baby and brought him home. He's settling in quite nicely, and he loves everyone that he meets. I can't wait to teach him things and watch him grow!  
World, meet Niko Jett Shippelt!  The cutest, most awesome puppy to ever exist.  

He's currently crying because it's his first night away from his family, in a strange new environment. I'm feeling guilty and fighting the urge to go pick him up and cuddle him all night long... but my husband is reassuring me that he is okay, and that we are doing the right thing by crate training him at night. My heart breaks hearing him whine. We've just got to get through tonight, and then I have a whole day of cuddles ahead tomorrow!  
Do you love his suitcase bed?? We made it ourselves, because we are oh-so-crafty! 

a ride on a big jet plane...

Aug 21, 2012

I thought that training would never end.  The long days, endless studying, and immense stress felt like it lasted forever... until it was over. Suddenly my perception switched and I wondered how on earth the past month had gone by so fast.  
We'd finished the classroom portion and had one final step on our journey towards becoming flight attendants... flying!  As part of our training requirements, we were about to go on group line indoctrination, and I could not wait.  That evening I stressed over ensuring that I didn't forget anything important and rushing so as to not be late. I should have known that I'd arrive to find out the flight was delayed. I apologized profusely, as I'm known by former coworkers to have bad luck when it comes to on time departures. While I'm early for absolutely everything, the flights that I'm on never seem to follow suit.  The reality of our situation was that as a non-revenue flight, we were on the bottom of the list for priority to take off. Our 9 pm departure became 11 pm, and we all were feeling rather sleepy as the hours passed by with nothing to do but wait.  It was a great introduction to the life of a flight attendant for those who have never done it before.  
Finally, we boarded a shuttle bus and drove airside to the aircraft, which was parked at the gate. I hadn't driven airside since Dubai, and it was one of those little thrills that brought an inner happiness. Oh, the beautiful lights!  We boarded the aircraft and I opted for a seat at the back, knowing full well that we'd be experiencing simulated turbulence and that it's always a bumpier ride at the back. 
We taxied down towards the runway, listening to commentary from our instructor.  Finally, it was time for take off.  13 brand new flight attendants sat with faces staring out the windows.  We were in the sky at last! In comparison to my former almost silent office, the A380, this 737-200 was one noisy airplane. I wasn't complaining. A plane is a plane, I love them all.  
Once we'd reached altitude, it was time for some fun! As there were no paying passengers onboard the aircraft, we were able to do things that you normally can't do on big jet planes. Our captain gave us a real life demonstration of roll, pitch, and yaw... we know what it is on paper, but feeling it in real life is another story. It was like a ride at an amusement park, and I was one happy kid.  Next up was my personal favourite... turbulence. I'm sure glad that I don't get motion sickness. I loved every single minute of it, as we bounced through the air. Simulated turbulence is something that my pilot husband loves doing when he's flying us in a Cessna, but I'm happy to be able to say that it's pretty darn awesome in a Boeing too. 
The highlight of the evening was when we were all invited in small groups up to the flight deck. I always love going up there at night and seeing all of the controls and endless buttons illuminated... but this flight was something extra special.  We had the most incredible view of a massive thunderstorm, and every few seconds the clouds below us would light up, making the entire flight deck bright.  As if that wasn't enough awesome crammed into a 15 minute span, we were lucky enough to have a view of the Northern Lights at the exact same time. I've seen a lot of amazing things over the past few years, but it takes very special moments to join the ranks of my top life moments. I had just added another to the list, making me perhaps the luckiest girl in the history of lucky girls.... At least in my opinion. There wasn't much more that I could ask for. Sometimes things happen for a reason... without our 2 hour delay we would have missed out! 
We headed back to our seats as we turned back towards Edmonton and experienced a rapid descent. Some people (my mother) would be terrified and crying, but we all thought that it was great. We went through a simulation of preparing for an emergency landing, and just before we touched the runway we shot back up into the sky.... finishing off the fun with a missed approach. I was exhausted, but giddy as we finally landed back in Edmonton.  What a night!  What a flight!
The seatbelt signs turned off, and we were congratulated by our instructor... because as of right then, we became official flight attendants.  We were handed our certificates, and just like that, training was over.  I'd spent the past month waiting for this moment, and now that it had arrived it was rather bittersweet. There would be no more classrooms, no more exams, and all of the fun was about to begin. At the same time, we'd all become close friends and saying goodbye was not much fun. We promised to keep in touch, and reunite halfway between our Edmonton and Calgary homes... in my hometown of Red Deer. I may or may not have influenced that decision.  
It's time to fly!!  I'm so excited to get back to work and actually love my job again!

skyward bound

Aug 15, 2012

We worked hard, we studied our butts off.... and after what felt like forever, we graduated!
It's been a long few weeks, but all of the stress has paid off. Yesterday morning, we received our wings! I have wings! It only took 3 airlines to be score them. 

By this time next week we'll be in the skies, and I certainly can not wait.  
It's been a stressful journey, but fun as well. I've met some really, really great people and made amazing new friends.  This is my 3rd initial class (4 if you count my A380 conversion class) and for the first time, we all get along... really well. We've become a family.  We may have such different backgrounds, ages, and experience levels, but we've been fortunate enough to become good friends. Every single one of us!  I truly love each and every one of my classmates, and I feel so lucky to have ended up on this new life adventure with them.  Thanks to them, I'm feeling very optimistic about my new career... hopefully the rest of my coworkers will be just as awesome.   
We've only got a few more class days left before we spread our wings (I had to say it) and start flying.  As excited as I am for that, I'm sure going to miss everyone once it's all over!  
It's an amazing thing when you know exactly what you want to be doing in life, and you can do exactly that.... and get paid for it.  I'm the luckiest girl, ever.     

halfway there... and most definitely living on a prayer.

Aug 10, 2012

This may be the very first year in the history of my existence in which I am eagerly awaiting September.  Okay, that's a lie. For a moment I forgot that I once lived in Dubai where temperatures exceeded 50 degrees in August, and drinking water in public was prohibited thanks to Ramadan.  Allow me to rephrase... this is the very first year in the history of my existence in which I am eager for September, despite the fact that I live in Canada. That, my friends, is what initial flight attendant training will do to you.  
We are over halfway to the finish line now, but that doesn't mean that we've learnt to cope with our stress. The prospect of failure looms over our heads with every exam... including our final practical exam, which takes place bright and early tomorrow morning. Obviously, blogging takes priority over studying at this current moment.  I'm the worst student ever. 
They say that the third time's a charm, but let me tell you... 3 airlines later, I'm still just as nervous as all of my first time flying classmates.  We'll all get through tomorrow and do just fine, but the pre-exam jitters are sticking around until we hear that we've been successful.  I can't wait for it to all be over. I can't wait to hit the sky and live stress-free until annual recurrent training rolls around. 
On a lighter note, I am currently on my first "layover". By that, I mean that the company flew myself and the other Edmontonians to Calgary for the weekend to use other airline's simulators... including my former airline. It was very strange going back to their campus as a guest with another airline.  Had you asked me a year ago, I would have never imagined that I'd be where I am right now. Despite this, I'm happy and looking forward to the future. Just a little bit more tedious class time, and I will be back up above the world so high.... right where I feel at home. 
Until then, training owns my life, and thus I am off to bed. Wish me (and all of my amazing classmates) good luck.  We will happily accept celebratory chocolate as a congratulatory gift once this is all said and done. If you are my husband, I'll be glad to receive a puppy as a graduation present. Just saying.


my most prized possession.

Aug 2, 2012

My passport is my most prized possession. My ticket to the world, it's ventured through some of the most exotic places on the planet, collecting stamps on almost every one of its pages.  The little 24 page book tells so many stories of my life as I know it today.  There was my trip to Australia, where I spent a year backpacking all by myself. That trip changed my life and made me the outgoing and confident person that I am today.  There are family vacations to Mexico, and my visa to live as a resident of the United Arab Emirates.   There are stamps from my layovers, bringing back memories of when I walked on the Great Wall of China and fell in love with Germany. Reminders of discovering Hong Kong, and a day trip to Oman where I made friends with dolphins.  There were the stamps from transiting through the United States on my way home to Canada, and of course the stamps from the two trips to Mexico in which I got engaged and married.  It's safe to say, it holds a lot of my most cherished memories. Thinking back to them, I felt a moment of heartbreak as the lady at the passport office stamped a giant "Cancelled" stamp and clipped the corner of my beloved book.  It's up for renewal, and while I will get a shiny new one (with a slightly better photo) soon, it still was a sad moment knowing that I'd never use that particular passport, ever again. 
As I sadly walked out to the street, it dawned on me that just because it's the end of an era, it doesn't mean that I can't make the next 5 years just as amazing. Sure, I probably won't go to 36 or so countries, I won't get my dream job for the first time or marry my best friend. That doesn't mean that life won't be fun, or that I won't travel.  Life is what you make of it. In 2 weeks, I'll have a brand new passport and I'm going to take it on as many adventures as I can.  
As for the old one... someday I'll flip through it and tell my kids all about my adventures. Hopefully I can inspire them to venture out and see as much of this great big world as they can!  
Farewell, old passport. We've had some amazing times together.