Another Year Over.

Dec 30, 2009

Another year has gone by!! Seriously, where has the time gone? The past 12 months have flown by. 2010?! Really? I just got used to 2009.
What a year it was. Initially I was upset to see the end of 2008. I'd spent the majority of the year living as a backpacker, travelling through beautiful places like Australia and Fiji. I recall saying "This was the best year of my life, so next year will be a letdown in comparison". Not very optimistic thinking, but fortunately I was incorrect in my assumption. This year was amazing, and I think it's safe to say it surpassed 2008 as the best year of my life, so far.
I was no longer a backpacked, but I still traveled. I went to Mexico, Las Vegas, Ontario twice, and Vancouver 3 times, not to mention countless trips to the Rocky Mountains and a weekend in Radium, B.C. Oh, and then there was Dubai, but we'll get to that part in a minute.
I started dating the greatest guy in the entire world, and found myself falling in love. That in itself makes everything in life a little bit better.
I discovered that I actually have hobbies. I never missed a karaoke night, and I started a photo project called Project 365. I took a photo every single day of the year, and invested in my very own DSLR camera, which I love nearly as much as I love chocolate. Oh, right... I gave up chocolate for 46 days in total during Lent. I suffered the entire time, but once I was able to eat it again it had never tasted better.
After a few years of chasing my dreams, I actually achieved them this year. I've always dreamt of being a flight attendant... I didn't even care what airline, I just wanted to fly. By some stretch of incredible luck, I landed a job with Emirates Airline... one of the best airlines in the world (and that's not even a biased opinion, Google agrees). Not only am I training to be a flight attendant, but I'm working for a major international airline. Every time I go to work, I'll be flying to another country. One of the mottos that I've seen on Emirates Vacation buses is "Dreaming big, achieving bigger". That's exactly how I feel about this entire situation.
I moved to Dubai, where much to my satisfaction... there is no winter. I'm surrounded by palm trees and the sun radiates down every single day. There are beautiful beaches with clear blue water. The biggest shopping mall and tallest building in the world are a nice added bonus.
Like I said earlier... what a year.
I realized this year how important every single one of my friends and family members are to me. Without them, this year would not have been nearly as amazing. Even though my dream led me to the other side of the world, my mom and Ryan still came with me to Vancouver to support me during the interview process. Each and every one of my friends was happy for me and they threw a great surprise going away party. I couldn't ask for better people in my life. I'm the luckiest girl in the whole entire world!
So, as 2009 draws to an end, I'm looking forward to 2010 and all that it will bring... Paris? Tokyo? New York? Maybe, probably. In 2010 I'll be able to see Ryan, somewhere in this great big world, and come home to visit my friends and family. It's going to be another great year, I can sense it. Life is truly amazing, seize every single moment of every single day.

Emergency Training

Dec 28, 2009

It is now my second week here in the lovely city of Dubai. I've made great friends, become more comfortable with my surroundings, and learnt a wealth of information in training. Week 2 marks the beginning of the most critical phase of training - Safety and Emergency Procedures. In 2 weeks time I will know how to respond to any inflight emergency that I may encounter in my career. For those of you who may be reading this (Ahem - GRANDMA!) and worrying about my safety... calm down, take a deep breath, for your fear is unnecessary. Statistics show that a person is more likely to be killed in a car or train accident, or even by the United States Health Care System than they are to be killed in an incident involving an aircraft. We train for these emergencies in the HIGHLY unlikely event that they should occur. We won't likely ever have to apply our knowledge in a real life situation, but if required, we'll know what to do to save our passengers and ourselves. And no - they don't tell me to say that, it's not scripted. I honestly feel far more safe at 40,000 ft in the air than I do driving on the icy roads back home every single winter day.
Training is intense. We have homework every night, and exams most days. We sit in a class and learn theory... taking notes, watching videos... regular school stuff. The fun starts when we get to practically apply our knowledge. In front of our classmates and instructors, we demonstrate our capabilities in fast paced, high pressure situations. Sound intimidating? Heck yes. However, once you've successfully completed the exercise, you are left with a sense of satisfaction. Yay, I just saved lives!
Yesterday was our first day of safety training. We arrived in our class and immediately recognized that our every move was being watched. There were instructors glancing at us and scribbling notes. They pay attention to everything, so you must act professional at all times.
We spent the morning going through theory and then headed downstairs to the simulator... Excuse my unprofessionalism, but... SO COOL!! We watched our instructors simulate an evacuation, and we were the frantic passengers trying to escape. Later on, we learnt how to open the aircraft doors. Sounds simple, but there are quite a few steps to remember and the doors aren't light. We all made several mistakes and giggled the entire time, but our trainer was a bit lenient given the fact that it was our first attempt.
We were assigned homework for the first time, and spent last night cooped up in my room filling out my workbook. It's strange, having homework after a few years out of school.
Today it was our turn to evacuate the aircraft. We each had several tries and by lunch time my throat was sore from shouting commands as loud as I could all morning. The trainers are very serious and every mistake is made clear in front of the entire class, but it's quite the adrenaline rush. The highlight of the day was sliding down the emergency slide rafts. You've all seen them on the safety cards or videos and thought "Oh, that would be so fun!". I thought the same, until I found myself standing on the edge staring down the steep slide. With encouragement from our classmates, we each jumped bottoms-first onto the slides and slid down.
It was a very eventful, stressful, action-packed and exciting day. Now, on to complete my homework!

A Very Merry Dubai Christmas

Dec 25, 2009

Another Christmas has come and gone. All of that excitement, chaos, crowded shopping malls and build-up for that one day, and now it's gone for another year. I always feel a bit sad when it's all said and done. People return to their daily lives and the festive spirit diminishes. Farewell Christmas, until we meet again next year.
Christmas in Dubai was far from ordinary. Here is an average Christmas at home with the family:
I wake up, my brothers drag me to the tree where the family opens presents. The living room is a mess of wrapping paper as we sit in our pajamas eating chocolate. We eat breakfast together, call the Grandparents on the other side of Canada, and then go to shower and get ready. At night we eat dinner, preferably turkey and spend the rest of the evening singing karaoke and having cocktails. Ahh, Christmas.
This year, on the other hand, was far different. I woke up in my apartment, taking a few moments before realizing that it was in fact Christmas morning. My phone rang, and I was thrilled to be able to talk to Ryan for a few minutes. I headed to the living room to turn up the air conditioning and was happy to find a chocolate Santa on my door that my flatmate had left for me before her early morning flight home. I opened it up and bit Santa's head off, keeping up with my chocolate for breakfast tradition. I wandered the apartment, slightly bored. Eventually I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich and headed back to my room. My family called and I talked to my mom and brothers before they headed to bed. Ryan, however, stayed up the entire night. We spent hours talking on both the internet and phone, chatting about anything and everything that we could think of. Finally at 3:00 pm (4:00 am at home), Ryan fell asleep and I proceeded to get ready to meet Fran, Daniel, Naf and Darya (Australia, New Zealand, CALGARY and Russia). We hailed a taxi and headed to Dubai Mall, which is officially the biggest in the world. It seems no bigger than West Ed, until you take into account that it is spread over 4 floors. I was in awe, taking photos of everything. There is a huge aquarium that stretches the height of 2 floors, an Olympic sized skating rink, a Sega theme park, waterfalls, movie theaters, and a fountain show equivalent to Bellagio... however the tallest building in the world as a backdrop to the amazing display made it a bit more exciting than Las Vegas. We went to a very American inspired grill for Christmas dinner, where I dined on a deep dish pizza. I would have preferred turkey, but the pizza was quite delicious. After dinner we went to Baskin Robins for ice cream before rushing to see the fountain show. We were so amazed that we watched it 3 times. We were having a lot of fun, but unfortunately the past 2 weeks of early mornings have taken their toll and around 8:00 pm we were so tired that we could barely walk. We headed to a fancy hotel next to the mall to catch a taxi, rather than wait in the long line at the mall. Everything is so over the top in Dubai. The hotel was beautiful, and we wandered around the lobby trying to act as though we were guests, but we didn't do a great job of concealing our obvious amazement at the beauty of everything from the couches to the lights to the walls. We caught a taxi home, said goodnight, and I headed back to my room to talk to Ryan for a short while before falling asleep. I was of course a bit homesick at various points throughout the day, but keeping busy and being with people who were in the same boat made it a lot more bearable. It was a great day and a great night... despite being thousands of miles away from home.
I was also informed that Boxing Day DOES exist in Dubai, and today I plan to head back to the mall to participate in the shopping madness.

Merry Christmas!!

It's Christmas morning in Dubai, as I sit in my apartment all alone. My flatmate had a flight this morning and won't be back for a few days... lucky for her, she is headed home to be with her family. She was kind enough to leave a chocolate Santa by my door, which I quickly consumed for breakfast. This isn't my first Christmas away from home. In fact, that occured several years ago when I was only 15 and flew to Texas. In 2007 I spent Christmas on a beach in Sydney, Australia. So today I sit here in Dubai, spending Christmas out of the country and away from my family for the 3rd time. It never really gets easy, but I'm coping quite well today. Last night I was thrilled to recieve a delivery of beautiful roses from Ryan. It really helped to lift my spirits and bring back a bit of the Christmas spirit that I normally possess. It's a bit hard spending our first Christmas together, apart... but we've spent hours talking on the phone and online, so it makes it a lot easier. I've also spoke on the phone with my family, and I have to thank Mom, Dayton, Kaynyn, Carley, Titan, and most especially Ryan for getting together to take a photo for me... it means so much to me!
This afternoon I'm meeting up with a few friends to go to Dubai Mall (The biggest in the world!!) to distract ourselves from homesickness, find a nice restaurant, and have Christmas dinner as a "family".
Merry Christmas to all of my friends, family, and loyal blog followers. I love you all and hope that yo have a safe and happy holiday spent with the people that you love. Eat some turkey for me!!

A'salam Alikum (Hello)

Dec 21, 2009

It doesn't feel like it, but I've already been living in Dubai for an entire week! However, when you put homesickness into the picture, it feels more like a few months have gone by. I'm coping quite well, but as can be expected, I miss everyone. Most particularily Ryan, as I'm sure you can all understand. I made a trip to Ikea last night to stock up on cushions to fill the empty space in my bed, normally occupied by him. Some days are better than others... induction days are keeping me busy and I've made some good friends, but the distance takes it toll on me, emotionally. On the bright side, the day that we do see eachother again will be so amazing, even better than Christmas... which, by the way, is so soon! It's easy to forget, given the fact that I'm living here in the desert surrounded by people from so many nationalities, many of which don't even celebrate Christmas. I don't have plans as of yet, but hopefully I can find something fun to do that doesn't involve spending the day getting extremely intoxicated at a club. That rules out the British and Irish members of my group, as I overheard them planning a massive party Christmas Eve. I just want to go for a nice dinner, spend the day with fun people, and keep myself distracted. As this will be my third Christmas spent in another country, I'm well aware of the fact that homesickness strikes the hardest on Christmas Day, and while there is no escape, distractions through the duration of the day make it a whole lot easier to deal with.
As for Emirates, this week has been chaotic and hectic, but the real madness has yet to begin. Training officially starts next Sunday, and everything that I've done up to this point is all part of the induction period. Yesterday was another day of HR talks and being overloaded with information. As soon as we were done for the day, I headed to Festival City Shopping Mall with Kam, Frances, and Susan (from Thailand, Australia, and Ireland, respectively) to stock up on Ikea essentials. I bought some pillows, candles and fake flowers to make it feel a bit less like an empty room and a bit more like home. I also picked up a hair dryer after a week of air drying that was driving me absolutely insane. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up some red lipstick... not that it suits me, nor that I enjoy wearing it... but it's a mandatory part of the Emirates uniform. Speaking of uniform, today was my uniform fitting! As I stood in the change room staring into the mirror, it once again dawned on me that my dream has come true. There I was, wearing a real flight attendant uniform, and not just a regular flight attendant... but Emirates! One of the best in the entire world, and I'm one of the priveledged people who gets a chance to say "I'm an Emirates cabin crew member". Oh geez, I'm giddy thinking about it. The uniform isn't exactly flattering, but I'm not trying to make a fashion statement. I'm here to work, on big beautiful airplanes, and essentially get paid to travel the world. Ahh, life is good.
Today was also our first day of learning information directly related to aviation. Everything until this point has been general information about Dubai and the company. We completed our first course in basic aeronautics... which covers everything from the forces that enable an aircraft to fly, to the fuel systems, electrical systems, communications and everything in between. We even learnt about the different types of clouds and all types of turbulence. It was all quite easy, as I completed a flight attendant training course a couple of years ago in hopes of getting a job with WestJet. Oh, WestJet, thank you for rejecting me... you've opened up much more exciting doors for me.
Later on was a course in Basic Arabic. I'm hopeless. I've studied French, Spanish, and Italian, but this is so much different and far more difficult. I don't know that I'll ever be able to tell a passenger to "Min fadlak orbot al hezam" (Please fasten your seatbelt), without reading it from a sheet of paper and pronouncing it horribly wrong. I can't even remember how to say hello half of the time. One thing I've mastered is "Shukran", which means thank you... I'll be super thankful, but I can't carry the conversation any further. I'm not too concerned, as the majority of the people living here speak English.
I'm always tired since I've been here. The mornings are so early and the days are so long, but it's good preparation for long haul flights that I'll be dealing with. That said, it's time to relax and get ready for bed, as my bus pickup time tomorrow is 6 am!

Touring Dubai and Goverment Medicals

Dec 19, 2009

I woke up at 5 am today, yet again. I need to start getting used to these early mornings given my career choice. Today was an easy day, requiring little to no thought. We started with a tour of Dubai, which was a nice introduction to our new city. First off, we were brought to Jumeriah Mosque, where we learnt a bit about the Islamic religion. It was actually pretty interesting, and useful information considering 80% of the population here is Muslim. Before entering the mosque we had to take off our shoes and all of us ladies had to don head scarves, sending us into a frenzy of photo taking and giggling. Not my typical look. After the mosque we did a tour from the bus, much to my frusturation as I always seemed to be on the wrong side for taking photos. It was still a good time though, as we ventured past Jumeriah Beach, the Burj Al Arab (the only 7 star hotel in the world), palaces of the royals, Palm Island, and of course... the Burj Dubai in its giant glory. We headed back to the Emirates Training College for a quick lunch break before the event that I'd been dreading... Goverment medicals. Every single person who moves to Dubai is required to take a blood test and an X-ray, despite having done both back in Canada. As you may have read in a previous blog... I do not cope with needles. I was stressing about the situation as we hopped onto the bus and drove out into what seemed the middle of nowhere to the medical clinic. Beyond the tall, fancy buildings that seem to define Dubai are the dingy outskirts that you don't hear about when you are in other countries. In the middle of a rundown labour camp is the Dubai Goverment Medical Clinic. Fortunately, it wasn't as dirty as the building surounding it, but it still didn't do much to calm my nerves. We sat for what felt like forever before our numbers were called, and 10 at a time we filed into a small, hot room. We were arranged into two single file line ups, divided male and female. At the front of the room was a nurse and a chair. At this point I was extremely dizzy, with the realization that not only was I unable to lie down, but that I'd have to get my blood taken in front of everyone in the room. I was not impressed with the situation. Before I knew it, it was my turn. "I'm really afraid of needles", I informed the nurse before I sat down. I closed my eyes and tried to think of happy thoughts... like chocolate bars and cuddling Ryan. I felt a tiny prick, and that was it. 5 seconds, at the most, which was far less than the last time I had to have blood taken. I got up to walk to the X-ray area, but halfway there everything went dark. Realizing that I was going to fall to the ground within seconds, I reached for the chair beside me and sat for a few minutes. All of the girls in training are so sweet. Cam from Thailand rushed to get me a bottle of mango juice which I downed in a matter of seconds. I managed to stand up and walk to the other side of the room, but while waiting in line I was overcome with dizziness and had to sit down, once again. I'm told that the color in my face didn't start to return for at least 20 minutes. I felt so embarrased, especially considering it was really not a big deal at all. It was chaotic and disorganized at the clinic, and took well over an hour before we were called into the X-ray room for a chest X-ray. That part was easy, and we were done for the day! Phew, I had survived! I've had about enough of needles and medicals, but unfortunately I've still got one more medical day to go next week. For any other job, I'd refuse even one blood test, but this is Emirates, this is a dream come true. But geez, why must they be such vampires?

Induction Day

Dec 17, 2009

Today was my first official day as an employee of Emirates Airline... "Induction Day". I was so worried that I'd sleep in and miss the bus at 6:30 am, but I ended up waking up every hour the entire night. I had such a hard time falling back asleep that I finally got up at 4 am and decided to start getting ready rather than lying restless in bed. I hopped into the shower where I quickly washed my hair, shivering the entire time. In order to have a hot shower here, you need to flick the switch outside of the washroom that says "Water Heater On". I hope that I will remember that for next time. Ryan called at 5 am as he'd promised... my very own wake up call. Fortunately, I was already awake so I was able to talk to him a few minutes longer. His phone bill is about to increase significantly, but I guess he's saving money by not going on weekly dates... not to mention, he is likely eating far more healthy without my negative dietary influences. After a few minutes of conversation, he was off to the gym as I applied layers of makeup... or so it seemed. The "less is more" when it comes to makeup thing really doesn't apply to flight attendants. Foundation, blush, and mascara are mandatory, and soon I'll have to accept the fact that red lipstick is also a part of the uniform. Bright red. I haven't reached that stage yet, so I put on the basics, pulled my hair back into the almightly flight attendant bun, and headed downstairs to wait for the bus. I was surprised and excited to find about 10 other people sitting in the lobby also waiting for the bus. I didn't realize that so many of us were all in the same apartment building, so it was a bit of a relief. We chatted away excitedly, and I met a girl from Argentina, Ireland, and Australia. Our bus finally arrived and we soon realized that we wouldn't all fit on just one. We tried cramming into it, but the driver made half of the people get out, and we drove away with 1/4 of the seats empty. We were quite confused, but glad that we weren't the ones left behind. We pulled up to another crew accomodation building and more people got on the bus before we proceeded to drive in circles for 30 minutes. At least it felt like it. We finally arrived at Emirates Training College, hopped off the bus, and stood for about 5 minutes before the driver told us to get back onboard and we continued to drive in circles. It felt like an hour, but we eventually reached Emirates Headquarters and were met inside and directed upstairs. It was a day of paperwork, as we filled out various medical and HR documents, signed our official contracts, met our Ab Initio training groups (I'm batch 1459... and I'm told that I'll get to know my group members so well in the next 6 weeks that they may as well be family) and listened to hours of talks covering everything from fire safety to acceptable image standards. We also recieved a pay advance, which is greatly needed at this point. I have been living off of snacks for a few days and I'm looking forward to buying groceries. I'm still struggling with converting the currency from Dirhams to Canadian Dollars, but I'm sure I'll understand eventually. If not, I get paid in Dirhams so I might as well get used to shopping in them as well!
It was a long day and the effects of jet lag were felt among the entire group. During our fire safety presentation, we caught several people struggling to stay awake, and even took a picture of our new friend, Dan, from New Zealand as he slept with his mouth wide open. It's going to be a long, tough 6 1/2 weeks.
At 4 pm we were finally done, and free to go home. I was happy to discover that my flatmate Marsha was home, and we introduced ourselves and talked for awhile. She has been here for nearly 3 years, and she is super nice. She gave me the run down on training, the pros and cons of the job, and became my best friend when she gave me the password for wireless internet.... Finally!! I proceeded to spend the next hour sending emails, catching up on Facebook, and being my usual nerdy self. Ryan called me at 6 pm, just as he was waking up to get ready for work. This time difference is so confusing sometimes. We talked for awhile before he realized that he was going to be late for work, yet again, so I let him go and ventured out of my room, where Marsha and her friend were eating pasta and were kind enough to share. Although I've been invited to several parties, I'm settling in for what is sure to be an early night... I'm exhausted! Friday here is the same as Sunday in Canada, thus no training. It feels like a great day for the beach!

Home Sweet Dubai!

Dec 16, 2009

Early Saturday morning, I headed to the airport with my mom, brother, and Ryan. The highway was covered in ice, so it was a long, slow drive but we made it eventually. We hauled my luggage inside and I checked in for my flight to Hamilton. So far, so good. I'd managed to avoid having an emotional breakdown much longer than I'd expected I would. My stepdad came to pick up my brother, and as I hugged them both goodbye, I laughed as I realized that he was crying. Big, tough Martin, crying? I held it together, convinced that I could make it without shedding a tear. When I reached security, it hit me that it was time to leave. As I hugged my mom and Ryan, I couldn't hold it in any longer.. I started crying, and I couldn't stop. I hesistated as I walked into security, waving goodbye for at least a few months. As I walked to my gate, the tears were streaming down my face and I didn't care that everybody was staring. I was sad, and considered running back out into the airport and begging my mom and Ryan to take me home. I knew that I had to go, so I boarded the plane and headed to Hamilton, where I spent 2 days with my family before my flight from Toronto on Monday.
Once I'd arrived at the Toronto airport, I was nervous and sad, but I finally felt a bit of excitement as I checked in and caught a glimpse of the giant A380 plane that I'd soon be boarding. Ahhh! Despite the sadness and homesickness, I couldn't forget that this had been my dream for years and that it was finally coming true. The flight was great. Despite being 12 hours, the time seemed to go quite fast and I managed to catch up on my chick flicks, watching 4 of them between sleeping. At 7:31 pm, I landed safely in Dubai, where the temperature was a perfect 23 degrees celsius. Everything seemed so surreal and I was overwhelmed. The Dubai airport is incredible... so beautiful. I found a lady holding a sign with my name on it and met Ayu from San Francisco, and Naf, from Calgary! We had to get an eye scan, and then we got our passports stamped and it was official. This was our new home. We met a lady from the HR department and she gave us a quick run down of what the next few days held in store for us, and then we were off to our new apartments. I live about 10 minutes from the airport, which I'm sure I'll appreciate when I start getting early morning flights. There was a note on my door from my roommate welcoming me home. She is from South Africa, and won't be home until Thursday morning, so I settled into my new place all alone. It's a nice apartment, and my room is huge! It lacks personality though, so I feel a trip to Ikea is neccessary as soon as possible.
Today was a day off. I met up with Naf, as he lives in the same apartment block, and we tried to catch a taxi to where Ayu lives, but apparently none of the drivers here know where that building is. After a long detour, we got the taxi driver to drop us off at our own apartments, called Ayu and told her to take the crew bus to meet us. Once she'd found us, we caught a taxi and headed to Emirates Mall. It was formerly the largest in the world, before they opened up a bigger one last year. I caught a glimpse of the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Dubai, which is insanely tall. I can't imagine standing at the top! Exhausted and jet lagged, we came home to relax before our induction day tomorrow. Let the insanity begin!!
I'm still homesick, and hoping that it will pass as I meet more people in the same situation. On the plus side... I live in Dubai!!

The Final Hours

Dec 10, 2009

37 hours from now I'll be boarding a plane, likely wiping my face that is sure to be soaked with tears. I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I have to say goodbye to my family, friends and the boy that I love. Right now it seems impossible. I know that once I arrive in Dubai, I'll be happy.This is after all, my dream job. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to actually live their dreams, and I've been blessed with the chance of a lifetime.
It's time to start living my dream, and start planning new dreams... like meeting up with Ryan in places like Tokyo and Paris. Life is amazing, but goodbye hurts my heart.