Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Thoughts From A Day Off

A little standard I-haven’t-posted-in-a-while note… It’s nearly been 8 months since I’ve last shared some writing, but I’ve found myself busy with flights, going out, meeting new people, trying new things and simply enjoying life in Dubai. I wrote this post around early September last year and couldn’t really find the motivation to move forward and have it go public. I’ve stumbled back on it, reread it, and still feel the exact way. I promise myself to get back into writing so hopefully, all fingers crossed, you and I both will have something to look forward to.

I feel a headache coming through. I feel like I had worked a full day in a pressure controlled cabin, high up in the sky, catering to over a hundred passengers and landing late at night, early in the morning, past my bed time, whichever describes that fine line between sunset and sunrise. I feel like I rolled my luggage into my room, half asleep, half awake, half still in Colombo but physically in Dubai. I feel like I’ve stayed asleep until half 2 in the afternoon, only getting up once to make a cup of coffee and instantly returning back to my fortress of blankets. I feel like the only exercise I’ve done is scrolling through my phone and messaging a hundred words a second from the office I call my bed.

I feel all this because… Well, this is my current state. To simplify this paragraph, I can summarize it all into a single word – exhaustion.

To everyone else the life of a flight attendant is full of glamour, cat walking through the airport, our red lipstick on point, our hair slicked back and our scarf flowing delicately against the wind. We are seen pushing trolleys up and down the aisle, serving food, and balancing drinks on our magical silver trays. But the real challenge here is balancing our inner emotions with that smile you see on our face. It’s not easy.

It’s not easy flying from one time zone to another. It’s not easy waking up at 5 in the morning for a flight and then waking up at 5 pm for yet another. It’s not easy serving food and having to worry about the safety of the passengers and any medical situation that can arise at any moment of any flight at any time. It’s not easy working with different colleagues day in and day out, becoming temporary friends, disembarking and acting like you didn’t just spend the layover and the last 8 hours of the flight together. It’s not easy because the life of a flight attendant is far from normal.

Prior to joining, I was just like everyone else. I thought flight attendants had such a wicked job. They looked so flawless in the cabin and saw the world one flight at a time. Then once my rosters and hours started rolling in, I began losing motivation and positivity. I enjoyed my days in Dubai because on those measly days off, my life felt just a little bit normal again.

But, with every job come ups and downs. And with every job, you’ll always find something you will dislike. And with every person there’s a different level of tolerance of how much one can actually handle. I may have just listed and moaned about all the negatives of this line of work but, I truly cannot disregard the positives. Because… The positives are quite amazing.

In my last few months of flying, I’ve had the opportunity to spend (on average) a day all over the world. I’ve touch down on two new continents, visited well over a dozen new cities and rekindled my love for old ones. I’ve tried food I never thought twice of eating and met the most interesting people. I’ve experienced a UNESCO World Heritage site and cuddled with new animals. With all the downsides a job may come with, seeing it from the other side, where the grass is obviously greener, all my previous complaints sound petty.

Johannesburg, Brisbane, Beijing, Colombo, Aukland

And that is exactly how I’m coping and balancing my inner, much more true opinions and emotions with the very smile I put on my face each flight. It’s tough, exhausting, and far from normal but the perks are far from average. I may not be in love with the job but I am in love with where the job has taken me, for the memories I’ve made and for that I’m grateful.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


“I can’t wait to go home,” I tell myself at the end of some layovers. I usually look forward to working the return sector back to Dubai, counting down the flight time, getting on the bus and rolling my luggage straight into my room. However, on my last flight – a long, 6-day, Brisbane-Auckland multi-sector – I found myself getting a little confused with the concept of where home actually is.

As we slowly approach the 5-month mark of moving to Dubai, I’ve become grateful for many things: the opportunity to work for such a well-known company, living in another country and the chance to see the world. Although grateful, these reasons can have their downsides. As I just finished my degree while working a part-time job, a real job can be hard to adjust to. This may not be your regular 9-5 but booking a million days off and handing out shifts whenever one feels like isn’t as easy. Also living in another country, a different culture without the comfort of friends and family can be tough.

However, there’s something else, one thing I’ve opted out of the previous three advantages, because well… It deserves it’s own category and it’s the primary reason I’m adjusting so well.

My friends.

I’ve found the weirdest bunch of people here in Dubai and I couldn’t be more thankful (please note, I mean weird in the most loving way possible). We’ve bonded through training, waking up at 5 am, studying, and reciting memorized phrases over and over and over again. We’ve de-stressed and made the absolute most of our days off by going to the beach, taste-testing different restaurants and going to a few clubs… Okay, okay, many clubs. We spent every waking minute with each other, practically living in my friends’ apartment and only using my room to sleep.

All this was possible due to living in a temporary accommodation for 4 months. We were very lucky to stay in a hotel and have the luxury of walking just a few flights of stairs to knock on each other’s door. And when we’re not out taking over the city, we’re slumped on the couch, watching a movie or enjoying the likes of Instagram. There’s truly nothing better than doing nothing with your friends. But, as cliché as it sounds, all good things come to an end and now starts the reality of what was supposed to happen months ago. We’ve moved out of this lovely building, our temporary accommodation, our oasis of Dubai, and are now scattered throughout the city.

We were given about a week notice to pack all our stuff and end our suite life of Zack and Cody lifestyle. And as much as we didn’t want to think about it and take it as the end of the world, we did. All the girls were coordinated on their crying schedules and the boys had to bear with our emotional moments. Who would be our new flat mates? How would the place look? How far is it? When and how will we be able to see each other? A cloud of fear, anxiety and sadness took over and we didn’t want to leave. But it had to be done.

And now, I’m typing this long overdue blog post out on the balcony of my new flat, on Sheikh Zayed Road, high up on the 24th floor, with an amazing view of the city. Here I can finally begin to settle in, decorate and make it feel like home. But, as I was sitting on my jump seat during landing, this wasn’t what I imagined. My idea of ‘home’ was torn between life back in Mississauga and back with my friends in Dubai. Home is my sense of comfort, my security blanket, a place where I feel like I belong… A feeling I have yet to encounter at this new flat of mine, a feeling that’s never genuine at the club being offered bottles, and certainly not on layovers spent with temporary friends.

I know returning back to Toronto isn’t a feasible option right now, but the alternative I’ve got here is just as good. We moved to Dubai and met in a temporary accommodation; but even after training college, in-between our flights and the new distances between us, I know I’ve made some permanent friends. If it weren’t for them, my only comfort would be after a 14-hour flight up North. So now when I say, “I can’t wait to go home,” I know they’re just a few metro stops, bus rides or a cab ride away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In The Middle

I learned in many of my University writing classes, the best place for any writer to start a story was in the middle. Before leaving Toronto, I was in the middle of growing up, in the middle of realizing how much I loved home, and in the middle of figuring out how good I had it.

I stepped into my backyard really quickly, to wipe away a couple tears that escaped after talking to my uncle. I inhaled the cold Canadian air and looked back inside to all my aunts and uncles sitting around the kitchen. I often miss these family parties and the chance to see all my titas, titos and cousins due to work and school. Being an only child, I looked forward to these gatherings since these cousins were the closest I’d have to siblings. But as much as I always wanted a brother, a sister or a bigger family, I know my parents were more than enough of the immediate family I needed. I spent many moments taking for granted home cooked meals, family mall strolls, my mom’s fruit shakes and the roof above my head.

And under that roof, amongst the many rooms are all my things, scattered and waiting to be selected, folded and packed into a suitcase. The suitcases remained empty until the last few days, because the rest of my time was spent hanging out wherever and whenever I could. I knew I had amazing friends, but I didn’t realize how amazing until I walked into a restaurant expecting a quiet dinner, to a table filled with all my girlfriends. Imagine still being close with someone you’ve known since kindergarten, your first, ever, best friend whom you played Barbies with all the time. Some I’ve known since the second and fifth grade and a few since the beginning of high school. Growing up is tough with gossip and fights and different schools with different schedules, but we always managed to remain friends and act as if the last time we saw each other was just yesterday. These were my girls. We grew up together. And there they were, with a cake saying bon voyage and this heartwarming surprise.

After a few glasses of wine, they made me think a spontaneous night was in order. They pretended to brainstorm places and came to a not-so-random conclusion of a nearby bar. I was excited for what reminded me of our high school days where we hopped into a car, going nowhere in particular and somehow still had fun. We arrived at Bier Markt, walked through the crowd and kept bumping into familiar face after familiar face. My favourite girls brought together all my favourite guys and there I was standing amongst all my favourite people.

The last few weeks made me realize how much I didn’t want to leave, in the middle of preparing to leave. This wasn't just your ordinary vacation/adventure, this was a new job in a new world, all on my own. It was becoming harder and harder to pack my suitcase and zip it up. Up until now, I think about how I want to stay close to my family and friends, but I need to break out of my comfort zone; how I want to continue being my parent’s little girl, but I need to grow up; how I would not feel this emotional if I had just stayed home, but I need to be stronger.

And in all that happened my last day at home, I was torn in the middle of what I want and what I need.

As much as I get home sick quite often, I need to put a bookmark in the middle of my favourite book titled home. A book filled with all these significant places and characters that hold so much importance. For now, I’ll experience this world a bit, return back soon and pick up right where we left off.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Here, There and Everywhere

It all started approaching my last days in University. Luckily for me, I only had 1 final exam to study for. Now as easy as that sounds, I knew once I handed that in, I had a whole life ahead of me to start worrying about.

I contemplated my years and years working in retail and knew I had so much more to offer than just bagging clothes, selling a TV or arguing with a customer about discounts. I dolled up my resume and applied for countless positions surrounding travel, social media, marketing, and some positions that brought all three together. Nothing was taking the bait. I wanted to finally work for something I was passionate about, and not some mindless, robot-like job, scanning barcodes one after the other. It just wasn’t me.

Then, there it was, an Emirates Cabin Crew posting appeared in my search and the open day was less than 2 weeks away. I thought, why not? It wouldn’t hurt to try. Becoming a flight attendant was always a thought but many of the Canadian airlines required a second language such as French, which I lacked and the idea was soon dismissed. However, getting paid to travel was pretty much the ultimate goal. So, I went for it.

I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into one of Sheraton’s conference rooms filled with over 300 people. I received plenty of helpful tips from current cabin crew members, all of which can be found all over the Internet. It was basically a ‘be on your best behaviour, look interested and dress sharp’ kind of day, as you were being analyzed and watched by the recruitment team. The red lipstick is also a nice touch as it could probably give the recruitment team a sneak peak at what you’d look with the Emirates face on. And like I said in my previous post, you had seconds to make a first impression. I literally walked to the table, handed over my resume and smiled somewhere in between. I tried to squeeze in a, “How are you?” but my nerves took over. That evening, I received a call (first of many forms of communication from them) to return for the second day.

The rest of that process is pretty much history and the same type of process you’ll read on many blogs who's goal is to help you become an Emirates Cabin Crew. I’m not here for that. I’m here to share my experience, my story, how I felt along the way and what new adventures I’ll come to face. Because so far, being here for less than 2 weeks, I have plenty to share. It's not just about Emirates and the pleasure of working for such an amazing company while travelling all over the world, it's about me, myself and I… Travelling here, there and everywhere.

So here begins the story of my life in Dubai.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

As Beyoncé Once Said, "Surfboardt!"

My last full day in Hawaii was the cherry on top of my entire vacation. The wake-up was not like most as I casually rolled out of bed, in no rush to be anywhere. I got ready and had our coffee at the breakfast buffet we spent most mornings.

We strolled off the boat, beating the rush of tourists to Kalapaki Beach. My scheduled surfing lesson wasn’t until 11 a.m., so we enjoyed the Marriot hotel grounds once more. We were lucky enough to arrive right on time for the feeding of the Koi fish. Their pond contains one of the largest amounts of Koi fishes, with prices ranging from hundreds to thousands for each fish. It is truly an experience that I never expected to be as amused as much as I was. The staff of the hotel handed out small cups filled with the fish food. They started off the daily ritual by tossing the fish pellets above the calm waters. And suddenly, as those pellets hit the water, the Koi fish went crazy. They wanted more. We were invited to toss our share of the food or, for a much more unique experience, place some in our hand right above the water. That way, the Koi fish would splash up and attempt to reach the food. If your hand is near enough, they will suck onto your fingers. It was such a weird feeling. I couldn’t handle the slimy, fishies swimming past my hands. The children around me held a much better composure with the Koi feeding than I did.

After my weird excitement had died down a little, we found a spot on the beach to roll out our towels. I admired our surroundings – underneath the palm trees, surrounded by sand, with a direct view of the water. It was the most perfect beach day without a cloud in the sky.

Time soon came to walk over to Kauai Beach Boys (owned by the Live Da Life Company, whom I was taking my surf lessons with). I scheduled a group lesson and luckily for me there was only one other person joining. It was practically a private session, which are typically much more expensive. The other lady was older but surfed quite a bit when she was younger; only taking the lesson for the supervision in case her rustiness of the waters took over. We stretched and learned the basics of balance and standing up on the board on shore. I’ll admit, I was nervous I would injure myself by doing everything wrong. But after a few runs, I was feeling confident. My only complaint was my lack of upper body strength which I needed to paddle myself back and forth. By the end of it all, I was extremely sore. But nonetheless, It was amazing. I wish I had the opportunity to do it when I was younger and wished I lived in an area where it could actually be a hobby.

The lesson felt quite short due to the amount of fun I was having. I talked for a bit with the locals who ran the Kauai Beach Boys and felt much envy that the beach life was their reality and not just a vacation. As much as I love the history and beauty of many European countries, I started to reconsider that love for living somewhere tropical with a beach nearby. I said my ‘mahalos’ to my new friends and went back to my spot on the beach to darken my colour. I spent a little more time in the water before we had to head back to the boat. Instead of taking the shuttle, we opted for walking. It was short and conveniently close to the dock.

Our stay in Kauai was not as long as the other ports, but to make up for it, an hour after sailing, we passed by the Nā Pali Coast. It’s on the northwest side of the island and extends about 25 km. Nā Pali stands for high cliffs, which is exactly what they were at about 4,000 ft. high. The beautiful shoreline is not accessible by vehicles. I was only able to see a few people who boated the distance to take advantage of the absolute privacy. Besides boats and helicopters, there’s a trail accessible by car but the distance from that point to the shoreline is an 18 km hike proven to be quite difficult. And aside from all these journeys, you must also acquire a camping permit to hike further into the Nā Pali coast.

I remember being so impressed with Waimea Canyon, but sailing passed the Nā Pali Coastline left me speechless. It was a scene of a movie, a clipping from a magazine, a painting created purely out of imagination. Shows like Lost and movies like The Perfect Getaway and Pirates of the Caribbean are filmed at these exact locations as well. It felt so unreal to see something of that kind of nature.

For size comparisons: along the beach coast is a boat and that tiny spec around the centre is a helicopter!

After the unfortunate sailing away from the Nā Pali Coast, it began to feel much more like the end of our tropical adventure. We packed our things from our short-lived, floating home, and back into our luggage to take us back to our version of reality. Which, is quite obvious, was far more different to the lifestyle we were introduced to that week. But, all good things must come to an end so our last evening was spent at one of the specialty restaurants and watching a live show. Before bed, we prepared our things for our early departure back to Canada. It was bittersweet as always, but travelling to this new destination left me with 2 things: several pins I can add to my map and a new found love for the islands.

Aloha isn’t just a hello/goodbye greeting, it’s a way of life. A way of life that matches so beautifully with the island they live on. Next time I visit, I want more exploring, more waterfalls and more surf time!

Hope you enjoyed the series of posts based on my trip to Hawaii. After just returning from New York City a few days ago and Dubai around the corner. I have plenty of stories up my sleeve and ready to share. It’s all going to be uphill from here and now that this quick journey is over, I’m about to embark on yet another, much more real one. Stay tuned because before you know it, the sky will be my office.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Journey To Waimea Canyon

Kauai was the last stop on our Hawaiian adventure. But lucky for us, it wasn’t the last day. And the first of our two days here was dedicated to some sightseeing. I woke up before the ship docked and was able to experience sailing in and getting closer to the island. Rainbows appeared and added an even more post-card touch to my already perfect view from the balcony.

After breakfast, we met for our excursion called ‘Journey To Waimea Canyon’ and unlike the other tours we’ve taken this felt the most touristy. We boarded a very large bus filled with seniors. I was the youngest one there, with my parents falling close behind. It wasn’t my ideal way of travelling but I guess we were all just trying to see the same beautiful spots.

The drive to the canyon was a long and winding one. And once we arrived, it was still a little tourist-free. If you’ve ever visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona, you’ll be reminded of the terracotta monochromatic colours. I read many reviews saying that if you’ve witnessed the Grand Canyon already, to not even bother with Waimea. This is such ridiculous advice. To visit Kauai and not catch even a glimpse of Waimea Canyon would be such a waste. In my opinion, Grand Canyon is indeed grand but it lacks a few things Waimea Canyon has. What I really loved about Waimea Canyon was how much more lush it looked. It was decorated with greenery, scattered along its terrain. Being the wettest spot on Earth, the canyon reaches about 50-100 inches of rain in its most mountainous regions. I even spotted several waterfalls. I only wish we could have hike and visited a few of them.

Afterwards we continued to drive along the island, passing yet another coffee mill, the Spouting Horn and locations where they filmed movies like The Descendants and Jurassic Park. It was a rather short tour but worth it for Waimea Canyon. We returned back to the dock where we took advantage of the numerous free shuttles. We had little time to spare because we had a luau scheduled for that evening, so we decided to scope out the area really quick.

We ended up at Kalapaki Beach, conveniently a 5-minute drive or a 20-minute walk from the dock. Right by the beach is a Marriot hotel, which oozes luxury and paradise. We pretended to be guests as we walked around the hotel grounds taking pictures. Before heading back to the boat, I also made sure to book surfing lessons for the next day. I had been waiting to surf the second I found out we were going to Hawaii. What a perfect place to learn.

We took the shuttle back and quickly got ready for our luau. Several busses transported people from our cruise ship to Kilohana, Kauai’s legendary plantation estate, where the luau would be held. As someone who used to dance hula and Tahitian when I was younger, I was excited to see how it was really done. We started Luau Kalamaku by getting lei’d, welcome drinks and photos with some of the dancers by the plantation’s beautiful garden and tiki torches. We had reserved seating, not quite close to the stage but close to the live band. While waiting for the show to start, we were served an authentic Hawaiian meal. I had my first taste of poi and, let’s just say it will probably be my last. I like taro but more in the form of blended drinks and ice cream. The show started soon after dinner ended. It told a heroic love story between Gods and Goddess and the voyage made from Tahiti to Kauai. It was very beautiful with its blend of lights, music and of course the talented dancers. It definitely made me miss the days I danced Hawaiian and wished I never stopped.

We returned back to the boat quite late and immediately got ready for bed. I was very excited for the next day and couldn’t wait to get my surf on.