Sunny Days and Huge Delays

Jan 27, 2011

It had been nearly a week since I'd took to the skies and I was beginning to go a bit stir-crazy in my apartment. I was still battling a nasty illness, but when scheduling called me during my early morning standby to inform me that I'd be given the gift of yet another Sydney trip, there was no stopping me! I packed my suitcase, stuffed some tissue in my pocket, and headed for the airport.
The flight there was far too long, as I sniffled, coughed, and failed at sleeping during my 3 hour break. I felt miserable and for awhile I regret my decision to come to work that day. I was relieved when we were finally at the finish line, beginning our descent into Sydney. That was, until, my ears began to hurt. I'm well aware of the fact that it's a bad idea to fly with a cold, but given the improvement in my health as opposed to a few days earlier I assumed that I'd be fine. Boy was I wrong! As the babies onboard cried in pain, I felt like doing the same. I frantically chewed on candy and swallowed water in an attempt to ease the blocking, but it was no use. For somebody who rarely even notices my ears popping anymore, it was extremely uncomfortable and I will not be doing that again in the future.
Once we'd landed and reached our hotel I had 2 options... I could be smart and go to sleep, rest, and try to get healthy, or I could be a little bit dumb, grab a coffee and head out to enjoy a beautiful summer day in Sydney. I don't think I even need to tell you which one I chose.
I changed into some shorts and headed out to the street.
It was a beautiful day, and I wasn't about to waste it lying in bed! I wandered aimlessly in and out of the same shops that I've been in many times before. I could have used some new clothes, but in my zombie like state I didn't have the energy to make any purchases.
I walked for hours before I decided to finally call it a night around 6 pm. I'd get a good night's sleep and be well rested for my early morning trip to Auckland! I was really looking forward to a day in New Zealand. The fresh air would do me good.
The next morning I received a note under my door informing me that my pick up time was delayed by an hour. No surprise there, as the plane was coming all the way from Dubai and often has the tendency to be late on this particular sector. I curled up in bed for another hour before finally getting ready and heading to the lobby to meet the crew. When we arrived at the airport the plane had just landed, giving us time to wander the duty free shops before boarding. I grabbed a Tim Tam Chiller from Gloria Jean's Coffee... one of many guilty pleasures that I have in Australia.
We were finally given the go ahead to get onboard, and when we did we were met with a toasty warm cabin. The captain informed us that the air conditioning wasn't working, as if we hadn't figured this out on our own. We began to board our passengers, who also felt the need to let us know that it was extremely hot onboard. To make matters worse, absolutely none of the lavatories on the main deck were working. Engineering was slaving away trying to fix the problem, but in the mean time we were left to deal with 400 passengers who were sweating and in need of a bathroom. As we waited at the gates, the temperature kept increasing. Eventually the Captain made a PA to tell our passengers that they would be taken back into the airport to enjoy the air conditioning until the issue was resolved. They were in relatively high spirits, which helped us (also sweating) crew maintain our sanity. While the passengers were off to enjoy some food and air conditioning, we were left onboard as the temperature of the cabin continued rising. I began feeling ill once again, suddenly dizzy and hoping that I wouldn't faint and cause even more stress. I proceeded to consume cups of orange juice, my go-to drink when it comes to episodes of near fainting. (AKA blood tests! Blech!)
Time dragged by as we waited for news. I was under the assumption that the flight would be cancelled, but our company was determined not to let that happen. As the hours passed, the temperature rose to an unbearable 40C as we sat on the plane with the makeup melting from our faces. 6 hours after we'd arrived at the airport, we were finally ready to re-board the passengers. They slowly made their way onto the aircraft, grumbling about the delay and expressing their frustration about the heat. The flight deck had managed to start one engine at the gate, allowing some air to flow through the cabin, but it was still super hot and our passengers were not happy about it. Myself and the rest of the crew were running on limited patience by this point. We'd yet to eat (all of the food onboard had gone bad after hours in the heat) and there was no way we could make it through another 3 hours without food. Much to our relief, the ground staff came to the rescue, delivering us a dinner of McDonald's. I can honestly say that I consume food from the greasy fast food chain two times a year at the most. I cringed as I grabbed a burger, but I was starving and had no other option. It had been sitting in the galley for awhile and it was no longer warm, but I didn't care. It was food and it was delicious. I'd secretly hoped that it would be terrible and sway me from ever eating it again, but it was just as I'd remembered it. I love fast food and avoiding it takes great willpower.
It was well over an hour before we were finally ready for push back. I'd thought the moment would never come, but we finally took off 8 hours behind schedule. The man sitting in front of me began applauding, and the applause shortly spread throughout the cabin. We were fortunate that everyone was relatively understanding. They realized that we had been waiting just as long as they had.
Unfortunately, my lovely Auckland layover was no longer going to happen. We arrived at the hotel and were given 10 hours to sleep before it was time to head back to the airport. I hauled myself to bed and morning came far too soon. According to our original schedule, we should have departed later that afternoon, but scheduling had different plans for us. We don't ask questions, we just accept the situation even when it makes no sense to any of us. Fortunately it was raining heavily in Auckland, making the return to bright sunny Sydney a more favourable option. When we arrived at the Auckland airport we were informed that the passengers had been waiting at the gates for 3 hours. Just the news that we needed bright and early in the morning... more upset people! Much to our surprise, as we turned the corner to approach the gate a crowd of nearly 500 people began to cheer and applaud us. I couldn't think of this many people cheering for me since high school graduation. Heck, I think only half of them even clapped then. It was definitely a feel-good moment. We were ready to bring them to Sydney and it was nice to know that our presence was appreciated!
Despite the annoyances of the past day, it wasn't all bad. Our early departure from Auckland meant that we had an extra half-day in Sydney. I took full advantage of this... walking the streets, pausing to enjoy a busker performing one of my favourite songs and strolling through the Botanical Gardens, enjoying yet another beautiful day.
The next morning I set my alarm to wake up early. I was determined to make it to the beach. The weather was just right as I caught a ferry across the harbour to Manly Beach. It was a quiet Monday morning and the sun was shining. I laid on the soft sand, listening to the sound of the waves hitting the shore. Ahhh, life was good. I love the ocean. If only my fiance wasn't such a winter lover, I'd move some place close enough to walk along the beach every day. I stayed a few hours, taking photos and managing to get a little bit sunburnt on my cheeks and shoulders. I decided that I should probably head back the hotel to catch some sleep before the long flight back to Dubai. I picked up some sushi along the way, and some mint chocolate chip ice cream for the ferry ride back.
I crawled into bed and slept until it was time to wake up and get ready. I didn't want to return to Dubai, but the time had come. It had been a long, tiring layover, but I'd enjoyed myself. I was fortunate to have good weather and a great crew who helped make the long delays slightly more bearable.
Back in Dubai, I slept through an entire day. No, really. I woke up at 8 pm and grabbed some breakfast. It was roster day and I was excited but nervous... it must have been flight karma, because after a string of delayed flights I'd been blessed with a trip to Toronto in February!! CANADA!! I didn't think that I could get much happier, but apparently it was possible. 5 minutes after I'd told him, Ryan had booked flights to come meet me and spend the weekend with me. I'm so excited! I've been missing him sooo much lately, but we'll be reunited in one short week! All in life is good again.

the job takes its toll

Jan 19, 2011

I'll be the first to admit that yes, I could probably be a bit more health conscious given my career of choice. Early mornings, late nights and ultra long-haul flights surrounded by hundreds of passengers carrying all sorts of germs makes this a job that is not for those with terrible immune systems. I often tend to take advantage of being super healthy by putting unfair abuse on my body. Take, for example the last few weeks. I've deprived myself of healthy foods in favour of chocolate and binge pizza nights with my roommate. I've neglected the gym and forced myself to go out and enjoy my layovers despite often having been awake for over 24 hours. I shouldn't have been shocked when I woke up with a terribly sore throat earlier this week after a 6 day trip in which sleep was my last priority. Fast forward 6 days and I'm parked on my couch feeling sorry for myself as I battle the flu. It escalated a few nights back when I was on airport standby from 1 am - 5 am. As the night passed, I gradually began feeling worse. I crossed my fingers that I wouldn't get called out for a flight as I was clearly in no shape to be in the sky. 2 days later I was heartbroken when I had to call in sick for a flight to Hong Kong. I've been to the airport, but this was to be the first time that I'd have a layover and the prospect of a new and exciting destination made staying home much more tragic. I could blame it on winter, but let's face it, I may be chilly but it's still 20 degrees in Dubai. It's probably mostly my very own fault. I should have rested more, ate more veggies... or something of the sort. In the future, will I opt for sleep during layovers rather than being a tourist? No, probably not. A couple of weeks from now I'll forget all about my currently aching body, nausea, chills, and non-stop coughing as I venture out in search of new adventures. But for now, I'm going to wallow in my misery as I watch every movie that I own for the 3rd time.

Surviving Standby.

Jan 15, 2011

It's hard to believe that it's already been 7 months, but here I am at reserve month once again. For those of you who don't remember my complaints in June, let my refresh your knowledge of reserve month. Each month there is a group of cabin crew who are not given a schedule, but rather placed on standby to be used as needed throughout the month. Every month is a new group of crew, and this month just so happens to be that dreaded time for me. What's so bad about it? Well, for starters there is the fact that you have absolutely no idea what the month will bring. Often I'll make plans in advance when I know that I've got a certain layover coming up, but this is simply not possible with the short notice I'm given. On top of that, there are a lot of standby days. I've already had a few early mornings sitting at the airport waiting for a flight to be short of a crew member. So far January has brought me 2 flights. There was a lovely (sarcasm) flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It's really not as bad as people make it out to be, but on occasion it can really be a test of patience. After so many layovers, it's nice to come home to my own bed from time to time instead of going to stay in a hotel and have to do it all over again the next day. After a few lazy days off (and sightseeing adventures with my new roomie), I won the lottery of reserve month, scoring a trip to Sydney. I was looking forward to 6 full days away from Dubai in beautiful Australia, with a day in Auckland, New Zealand in between.
The flight to Sydney is always a challenging one. No matter how much rest you get the night before, it's not easy to prepare for 14 hours of running around in the sky. By the time we landed, I was barely conscious but as usual I headed straight out to soak up the summer sun and treat myself to new clothing in the post-Christmas sales.
There really isn't much to tell about this layover. I used it as an opportunity to relax and enjoy my time. I went for many long walks, browsed many shops, and consumed a large portion of sushi on a daily basis. I had a great time doing absolutely nothing. I spent awhile trying to talk to Ryan in a grungy internet cafe before he jetted off to Mexico for a friend's wedding. It was very strange to be in the very same internet cafe that I'd sat in 3 years earlier, talking to him late at night. Back then we were just friends sharing in our love of travel. I'd never have imagined that I'd be back there 3 years later talking to him again... this time as my fiance! Life is full of surprises!
In Auckland I spent my time in cute coffee shops drinking yummy caffeinated beverages. I love Auckland and the beautiful fresh air. Every time that I'm there I'm instantly in a good mood, and I almost feel "at home." I honestly believe that it has something to do with the abundance of nature! I was high on fresh air and as happy as could be as I sipped my coffee and flipped through a wedding magazine that I'd found nestled between celebrity gossip magazines and the local news. I was feeling super content, not wanting to leave. It's really the simple things that I miss about my normal life back home, things like cozy coffee shops and the cool breeze at night and Auckland always gives me a dose of just that.
Another day in Sydney brought me more shopping, more wandering, and even MORE sushi. Time had flown by and it was time to return to Dubai. After another excruciatingly long flight, I was home, in my very own bed, using my new MacBook Pro that I'd greatly missed!
I had a few days to sleep off the jet lag and go on awesome Ikea adventures with my friend Greta (more on that to come at a later date), and now I'm back to my standby days. Where in the world will I go next?

New Toys!

Jan 6, 2011

Thanks to a wonderful package I received last night, I'm back online!!
Knowing that I was planning on splurging on a MacBook the next time I find myself in North America, Ryan took the initiative to send me one, saving me the time and hassle!! This way I don't have to wait! I'm so in love with my new toy and all of it's cool functions. And I thought getting myself off the couch was difficult BEFORE!
This week has been like Christmas for me!! First, I was delivered a bouquet of flowers from Ryan. Yesterday my friend Grant gave me a Christmas ornament and hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works! Us cabin crew get very excited about yummy smelling hand sanitizer, we go through bottles of the stuff! I've been receiving cards in the mail, and the lovely Selina from Zurich brought me over a HUGE stack of Swiss chocolate which I'm trying my best to resist eating in one sitting. And of course, the week ended with my new laptop! I am sure spoiled!

Finishing off 2010 in Thailand!

Jan 3, 2011

By some miraculous mistake by scheduling (that is the only possibitity that I can come up with) I was given 5 days off over Christmas. It might sound like any normal holiday to you, but in this industry the Christmas and New Years period is our peak season. Days off are rare and valuable. By avation standards, I'd won the lottery.
Despite this, I was not overly impressed. I had bid for a specific flight on Christmas Eve, a flight that most crew cringe when they spot it on their roster. I was disappointed, but soon shrugged it off. It could be worse. I could have been doing a miserable turnaround flight to a country that doesn't even recognize Christmas Day as a holiday or day of any significance. I began to plan out what I would do with my 5 days of freedom. I was dreaming of a mini-vacation, but all of the flights were full. I accepted that for the second year in a row, I'd be spending Christmas in Dubai.
Fortunately, I have an amazing new flatmate named Kim who dragged me from my Christmas Eve misery, forcing me to go out to dance and have fun. Everyone else was missing their family and friends just as much as I was, but together it felt less tragic.
On Christmas Day, Kim and I slept in until nearly lunch time before sitting in our living room eating chocolate in our pajamas. She later headed to the beach while I went for dinner with 2 of my friends who helped bring back my festive spirit despite the fact that neither of them typically celebrate Christmas in their home country.
The rest of my days off were spent doing absolutely nothing. I'm not sure where the time went, but before I knew it it was time to go back to work. I didn't mind. I was heading to Bangkok, which happens to be one of my favorite layovers!
I was up too late the night before the flight, leaving me exhausted as I headed for the grossly early flight. I managed, and happily flew out of Dubai with one of the best crews I've had the pleasure to work with thus far.
Landing into Bangkok, some crew made plans to head out shopping while others could only think of sleep. I was barely able to keep my eyes open, but I wasn't ready to sleep. Instead, I went to the supermarket to grab some snacks for my stay. I spent the afternoon lazily wandering the various shops around the hotel, before heading in search of dinner. The last time that I was in Bangkok I'd had the best Pad Thai I've tasted, and I wanted it again. I wandered down a dim-lit slightly scary alley until I found the restaurant. I ordered myself a small feast and then proceeded to my hotel room to devour it. After my huge meal, I crawled into bed where I talked on the phone to Ryan for a very long time. Calling Thailand is much cheaper than calling the UAE, so we took advantage of this and chatted until I was no longer alert enough to carry on a conversation.
The next morning I woke up, got ready and headed off for my flight to Hong Kong. We joked about how it was "a long way to go for dinner" during the 2 hour journey. Once we'd landed, we rushed to the lounge where a buffet of yummy dim sum, spring rolls, and other treats awaited us. We spend a few hours on ground each time we fly to Hong Kong, which we spend chatting, eating, and surfing the web. Soon it was time to go back to Bangkok. Overtired and overdosed on free cappuchinos, we were all in a strangely hyper mood as we boarded the passengers and took off.
It was nearly 1 am by the time that we got back to our hotel, but I wasn't quite ready to call it a night... no, I was in desperate need of ice cream. I headed to the 24 hour store across the street where I met with some of the other crew who were buying beers and drinks for a night of partying. Too tired to be social, I grabbed my ice cream and retreated to my room for the evening.
I had planned to meet another girl in the morning to head to the infamous giant mall, MBK. When I showed up in the lobby, she was nowhere to be found. I waited for awhile, but there was still no sign of her. Eventually I gave up and decided to go on my own. As I sat in a taxi zooming through the city, I thought of how much I've changed since starting this job. 3 years ago I traveled to Thailand with my mom, and both of us were slightly terrified of catching taxis in Bangkok, even though we were together. It seems silly now, but at the time we were dealing with such culture shock and we'd heard dozens of warnings. Here I was, in a taxi all by myself in Bangkok, without a care in the world. I arrived at MBK and forgot what I had intended to buy. I wandered the 7 floors of chaos, stopping to pick up some new movies to get me through reserve month. I didn't have much that I needed or wanted to buy, I just didn't feel like spending the afternoon in the hotel. I grabbed some lunch.... delicious noodles with calamari and prawns and a banana milkshake! I still can't get over how inexpensive it can be to eat in Thailand. After a few wasted hours, I returned to the hotel. I knew that I should go to sleep before my flight, but I wasn't quite ready. I went to the coffee shop across the street where I sat and ate a soft baked pretzel. As I was sitting by myself, a strange looking man came and sat across the table. "Sister, you have a very lucky face!" He told me. Unsure of how to respond to such a comment, I muttered "Uhh, thanks..." He proceeded to tell me that I'd live a long and happy life, living to be about 90 years old. He told me that he was a Yogi who travels the world helping the poor, and then said "Okay, now give me money!" I laughed at him, and politely declined. He was insistent, so I offered some worthless coins to make him disappear, but it was no use. "No coins sister, only notes." Not a chance. I got up and left him sitting there in frusturation. As I was crossing the street, he appeared again. "You are very beautiful!" He told me. Again, I thanked him, not paying much attention. "Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked. Despite telling him that I did, he still went on "May I have your mobile number to be friends?". I was nearly dying of laughter by this point, but I simply shook my head and said "No, I'm getting married." He finally got the hint, wished me a "happy life!" and left. Back in the safety of my room, I went to sleep, waking up to go back to Dubai.
We landed on December 31 at 4 am. I slept the entire day and was more than ready to celebrate New Years! It had been a great trip to finish off a great year.