The Zoo that is Home

Mar 23, 2011

Just a quick update...
I'm currently at home in Canada enjoying simple life pleasures such as being in the same country as my fiance, tap water, the English language, and cuddling with my beloved babies... my pets. How could you NOT be in love with these faces? Meet Titan, Becker, and the new addition to the family... Armani.

my birthday boy

Mar 17, 2011

Today is a very important day!!
No, I don't mean St. Patrick's Day, although that is also lots of fun...
Today is Ryan's birthday!!!

In a perfect world, I'd be there celebrating with him today. In the real world, vacation time is based on seniority. I'll arrive tomorrow evening, one day too late, but just in time to spend the weekend together!

I love this crazy boy more than I can describe in a blog post, at least without driving the rest of you crazy with the lovey-doveyness! I feel like I'm truly the luckiest girl in the world!

Happy Birthday Ryan!!!! What a great year it will be! You even get to get married at this age... to me!

my pre-vacation, vacation

Mar 15, 2011

The final days before my annual leave were approaching, and time had basically come to a standstill as it always does in the lead up to vacation. Fortunately, this time around I'd lucked out with a pretty awesome trip to pass the time. I was off to Bangkok, which just so happens to be one of my favourite layovers! I'd made up my mind that aside from the flights which I obviously had to work, I was going to pretend that I was on vacation for the duration of the trip.
With a little help from caffeine and some a really great crew, I managed to make it through the 3 am flight and land happily in Bangkok on a sunny day. Taking advantage of the long bus ride to the city, I napped so that I'd feel a bit more energized once we'd reached the hotel. I was still feeling a bit drowsy, so I made the most of the beautiful weather and ventured down to the pool. Lying in the warm sun, I began to enjoy my early vacation. As the sun started to hide behind the tall buildings surrounding the pool, it was off to the spa for me! I'd read in various wedding magazines that it's great to have a facial every month prior to the wedding. While many don't have the means to do so, I'm fortunate enough to travel to places where it's perfectly affordable and my skin could use the TLC, so I figured, why not? I dozed off into relaxation until it was all over and it was time for me to leave!
Back in my hotel room I changed and got ready for dinner. I was absolutely starving, but I hadn't agreed to meet the others until 7 pm. I knew that staying in my room would only lead to a "short nap" that would result in me missing dinner, so I went for a walk to keep myself awake. I crossed the busy street to the supermarket, where I stocked up on some fresh fruit and bottled water. It was finally time to meet for dinner!! I was joined by Ilaitia and Alex (the same crew from both my Beijing and Toronto flights this month!) along with another crew member, Vissan from Mauritius.
We walked down the road to a restaurant recommended by one of the Thai crew members. Despite the French decor, it was an authentic Thai restaurant with amazing food. My mouth was on fire as I devoured my spicy papaya salad, followed by perfect Pad Thai. Mmm, Thailand. When it comes to food this is definitely one of my favourite destinations. Once we'd finished eating and were too full to move, it was onwards to the Patpong Night Markets. We decided to catch a tuk-tuk for the sake of being in Bangkok, and rode through the traffic holding on for dear life. Upon arrival at the market, we were immediately bombarded with the usual pushy sales people trying to sell us watches and bags and everything fake. We declined the numerous people holding signs inviting us to see "Naughty shows" and questioned whether some of the high heel sporting women were actually male or female. The boys shopped. I don't know where the stereotype about girls shopping more came from, but having traveled the world and been shopping with both genders I can assure you, it is not true. Ilaitia had more bags than he could carry as he stocked up on gifts for his family back home. I found and fell in love with a cotton bag that would be perfect for the beach, and I had to have it. Unfortunately, I was feeling far too lazy to bargain. I accepted that I would not own it until the boys came along and helped me out, scoring me my bag for approximately 4 Canadian dollars. Once we'd finally finished shopping we were dragging our feet in a semi-conscious state. I hadn't slept all afternoon and my bed was calling my name! We walked back to our hotel and I slept for the next 10 hours until it was time to get ready for my next flight.
We were off to Hong Kong for the day!! It's a short flight, but we spend about 4 hours in the airport waiting for the flight back to Bangkok. During this time we are provided with food and free wireless internet, so I'm usually quite content! We piled food high on our plates and then got comfy in the chairs of the airport lounge as we enjoyed our meals and watched the heartbreaking coverage of the chaos going on in Japan. Feeling sleepy, I decided to take a walk to keep myself awake. I wandered through the duty free shops, picking up several items in the Muji store and then putting them back on the shelves after realizing that I had no use for them. But who doesn't want a cute little wooden airport set?! Before I knew it, it was time to return to Bangkok. It was a busy but quick flight, and we were back in lovely Thailand!! It was straight to bed for me!
I woke up the next morning to a phone call. It was Ilaitia, wanting to go shopping again! We met up after we had showered and were ready to go. Along with Vissan, we caught a taxi and headed to MBK, shopping paradise! For some reason, I had anticipated making many purchases, so I exchanged some of my other currencies into Thai bahts and set out to conquer the mall. I wandered aimlessly, picking up a few items at Beauty Buffet, a cute little cosmetics shop with all sorts of fun makeup products. Aside from that, I was empty handed when I returned to meet up with the boys 2 hours later. They were both toting massive hauls that would definitely take a great deal of effort to cram into their suitcases. We went to the food court for lunch, where I dined on Tom Yum soup and more papaya salad, and a coconut-banana milkshake to wash it down. Delicious! I was a bit disappointed with my lack of purchases, but I really didn't need to buy anything.
Back at the hotel, the boys went straight to bed but I wasn't quite ready to sleep. I walked down the street, stopping in at the spa for a pedicure. I was feeling rather self indulgent and spoiled, but I was nearly on vacation and therefore felt that it was justified. I got sleepy as my toes were painted a beautiful shade of purple. After an hour of relaxation I was ready for a nap!! I slept for 4 hours, until it was time to get ready for my flight back to Dubai. I couldn't wait! I was almost on holidays!
It was the longest 6 hour flight of my life, but having such an awesome crew made it a whole lot better. Ilaitia, Alex, and Athira from Thailand joined me in the back galley, and I can honestly say they are one of the best groups of people I've flown with. We played silly games to keep entertained, and took self timer photos of ourselves in the galley. We finally landed at 5 am, and despite my fatigue I was dancing at the baggage carousel celebrating the fact that I was done working for the rest of the month!
It had been a great layover, which will prove helpful in a few weeks when I'm reflecting on it and convincing myself to get back on the plane after my vacation.

My lovely blog readers, I'm catching a flight home tomorrow morning! Only 24 hours later (gross) I'll be home sweet home, surrounded by my family and cuddling Ryan and my puppies. Bear with me, I probably won't have many updates for the next couple of weeks!

great adventures on the great wall

Mar 10, 2011

For the past year I've been trying to work out the best course of action when it comes to resting before early morning flights. I've slept in the day before and lounged around the house until it was time to get ready for my flight. I've increased by caffeine intake and ran on coffee alone. The best method thus far seems to be staying up late the night prior, waking up early, and then sleeping all afternoon. Even this plan is not fool-proof. I've yet to perfect my methods, and 3 am flights are never done without great fatigue.

It was 1 am and I was on my way to yet another grossly early flight. I'd typically be crawling into bed around that time of night, so to be heading off to work is never an easy task. Fortunately, I was going to Beijing, China. I was motivated by thoughts of cheap shopping and determined to persuade some of the newer crew members to finally go to the Great Wall with me.

It was a long and extremely quiet flight. I was the only girl in the back galley and the guys were far less chatty than my typical mostly-girl crews. We did mention the fact that it was Ash Wednesday, thus the first day of Lent, and that as Catholics we should be giving something up for the next 40 days. In my tired state I agreed to sacrifice chocolate without fully thinking my decision through. Goodbye my lover, I'll miss you until Easter! The few passengers that we had slept as we sat in the galley thinking of ways to stay awake. I found myself pacing up and down the aisles several times in a desperate attempt to find some hidden energy. I was full of energy very briefly as I looked at the live map to discover that we were cruising past Mt. Everest. I ran to my door to open the window, where I was blinded by the bright light shining into the pitch black cabin. After my eyes had the opportunity to adjust, I was rewarded with an incredible view of the Himalayas below… they seemed so close! I grabbed my camera and took a few shots. Everest was buried in a blanket of clouds but many other snowcapped peaks were visible standing in all of their glory. This image brought me back to flights in my own country, so of course I muttered on about Canada and how I spend my weekends in the Rockies and about how excited I was to be going home next week. Nobody really cared, but I've grown accustomed to that. I'm a bit overly patriotic sometimes.

Landing into Beijing was a bumpy ride and the large volumes of coffee I'd consumed were not sitting too well. I felt a bit ill but I chalked it down to fatigue and felt much better after a nap on the bus ride to the hotel. I agreed to meet the boys for shopping (yes, I just said that… and they were both straight!) in 20 minutes and rushed to my room to rub off the lipstick and attempt to tame my hair. I stood at my door for what must have been 5 minutes, frustrated with the fact that my key card was not working. "Why does this ALWAYS happen to me?!", I thought. Annoyed, I proceeded to reception to complain. Halfway there it dawned on me that I was in fact staying in room 804, not 820. I don't really know how I confused the 2 being that they aren't similar at all. I probably was in no state to be out in public, but I went downstairs to the lobby where the rest were waiting patiently for me.

We caught a taxi to Newmarket, the tamer version of the absolutely insane Silk Market. The sales people were still pushy and persistent, but at least here they didn't attempt to drag you to their shops and get angry when you bargained for lower prices. My first stop was the DVD shop, as my roommate Kim and I are becoming increasingly devoted couch potatoes lately. I searched for the second season of Glee, but when I was able to find it I picked up seasons 1-6 of Grey's Anatomy, which should keep us entertained for quite some time!

It was on the the main shops, and tagging along with me was Ilatia from Fiji. It was his first time in Beijing and he was slightly overwhelmed and unsure of where to go. I gave him a basic run down (Do not pay more than 1/3 of their original asking price, do not buy more than you can fit in your suitcase, and DO NOT let them make you feel guilty for trying to get a lower price), while secretly hoping that I could take my own advice. We parted ways so that I could head to the basement…. shoes and purses! I bought a few pretty yet unnecessary items and I was proud of my bargaining skills which were a vast improvement from my first journey to the Chinese markets. It was time to meet the boys, so I proceeded to the entrance with my purchases and found them both standing empty-handed and flustered. They had such high hopes of finding great things, but they needed more time. We agreed to go for dinner and then continue shopping, although I was already toting more than I needed to own. For dinner, I settled on kimchee fried rice and fried dumplings, both of which were delicious. I wandered the tourist level with Fiji (far easier to pronounce than his actual name) as Alex from France rushed to finish his shopping. We came across a shop with small colourful lanterns, which we needed to own. After bargaining to a fraction of the asking price, Fiji bought 5 and I grabbed 2. They'll look beautiful in mine and Ryan's home, some day! We were all shopped out and I was tired of hearing "Lady, come I give good deal!", so we went to the entrance to wait for Alex and return to the hotel. We waited, and we waited, until finally we saw him rushing through the crowd apologizing for taking so long. He had bags in his hand and he was satisfied, so it was back to the hotel. Bed time was long overdue. I barely had the energy to shower, but once I'd done so I plopped into my bed and dozed off into dreamland.

The next day I woke up early and opened the curtains, relieved to see that it was a clear, sunny day… much unlike my last layover here, when the smog was so thick the buildings across the street were barely visible. Over the course of the flight I'd managed to talk 3 others into going to the Great Wall with me, and I was thrilled to finally be going. Of course, by the time we had landed in Beijing 2 had already ditched the plan and only Fiji and I left wanting to visit. I'd been in this exact situation before, and the higher per person cost with a smaller group led to the other person changing their mind and no Great Wall of China for me. Fortunately, whether through my guilt trip or an actual desire to go, Fiji was still in. We booked a tour and met in the morning for our adventure. Inside the bus, the tour guide told us a bit about the city as we peered out the windows, tourists in China. I giggled at fact that I used to always find it funny when bus loads of Chinese people drove through my country staring wide eyed out the window. I wondered if the people in the cars though the same thing, trying to figure out what was so interesting and photo worthy to us Westerners. It was a long drive to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which the tour guide assured us was the most beautiful part since Prime Ministers from various countries have visited. Clearly if it was good enough for them, it must be great. To get to the wall we were given 2 options: We could buy a ticket for the cable car, or we could walk up a mountain. I was quick to toss over the cash for the cable car. When it was our turn to get on, the men operating it had us stand in front as it approached, and we were shocked as they actually pushed us into our seats and sent us flying. You'd never believe that we were flight attendants given our nervous expressions as we hung on a cable climbing the steep mountainside. When we got off we found ourselves on the Great Wall of China, and it was pretty phenomenal. Naturally, I went camera happy! We began walking and taking photos along the way. The wall winded up the slopes of the mountain, curving and stretching as far as we could see. After a good deal of time walking, our pace had become drastically slower. At first it had seemed easy, but hundred of tiny steps later we were feeling the burn. I hadn't felt so out of shape in a long time.

We decided to turn back, knowing that all the distance we'd already covered we'd have to do again. As we were trekking back, I felt as though I wasn't going to make it. I'd went from wearing a winter jacket to breaking a sweat and walking in a t-shirt. I was convinced that I'd fall over and never get back up, right there. Fiji wasn't coping much better, stumbling and gasping for breath with each flight of stairs… I swear, there were far less on the way!! We gave in to one of the people selling drinks and snacks, eagerly handing over our money in exchange for bottles of water. As we whined about how difficult it had become, we imagined how anyone could have ever possibly built this wall that stretches for over 7,000 km. The walk back felt longer than the way there. After awhile, we realized that it in fact was longer… due to the fact that we'd somehow missed the entrance point for the cable car. We turned around feeling defeated and began trekking in the other direction. Finally, we'd made it to the beginning! My legs were feeling like jelly as I eagerly took a seat on the first bench I'd seen. I felt quite pathetic at my obvious lack of physical fitness, but I was glad I'd hung in there! And to think, I had contemplated going to the gym upon returning to the hotel! To get back down the mountain we had the choice of taking the cable car again, or riding down a "toboggan" down a track! It looked like fun, so we got in our tiny little little slides and rode down, having no control aside from a brake in front of us. I screamed like a girl as I swerved around corners. I'm sure that I wasn't going very fast, but I'd occasionally pick up speed and feel like I might just slide right off the edge. We reached the safety of the bottom and suddenly our energy was back. The bus was in sight! We were quite hungry from all of our walking, so we went to grab some lunch. As random as it was, the only place to eat was Subway. It seemed out of place amongst the tiny stalls filled with cheap souvenirs, but I happily wandered inside and got my usual order. Trusted Western food is often a very welcome sight in the middle of China. Once we'd ate it was time to get back on the bus, and we were quick to fall asleep until we were back in Beijing. We woke up to the tour guide pointing out the Bird's Nest and the Water Dome, the 2008 Olympic buildings. Like most tours in Asia, this one included a stop at a random place where we were encouraged to spend money. Unlike most, this one was actually remotely interesting, as we were taken to a silk factory and shown the process of getting silk from silk works and making products from it. We were then led into a massive warehouse full of silk goods for purchase. It was at this time that our tour guide asked us if we'd like to stop at another shopping street on the way back. We declined, explaining that we needed to be back to our hotel to catch our flight. She explained that we'd be the last hotel that we'd stop at and shook her head when we told her that the tour desk at our hotel had promised we'd be back by 5. Due to a convention and massive traffic jams, she informed us that it would actually be closer to 7. We stood there, slightly alarmed wondering how we'd managed to get stuck somewhere in this massive city unable to ensure that we'd be back in time for our pickup. She suggested that we take a taxi, and despite having spent the majority of our money already we opted to do so. We could NOT wait until 7. Both of us were feeling pretty antsy in the taxi, crossing our fingers that we wouldn't get stranded in a massive traffic jam. How could we possibly explain to our Captain that we weren't to blame, it was a silly convention's fault. Fortunately, the taxi had us back in 15 minutes, much to our relief. We had plenty of time to spare, which I put to use by taking a nap before the flight.

The flight back was quiet once again, filled with the odour of 427 pairs of feet in economy class. On this particular flight everyone takes off their shoes the moment that they sit down, which makes for one smelly cabin. We kept each other awake late into the night with silly jokes and games. By the time that we'd landed I was barely conscious and my legs were quite sore from the day's adventures. After retrieving my suitcase I said goodbye to the crew, many of whom will be joining me in a few days as we head to Bangkok! I'd had a great layover, but I was beyond exhausted! After staying up too late catching up on Facebook, it was off to bed.

Next week at this time I'll be en route to Canada…. I'm coming home!!

Simply Canadian

Mar 8, 2011

In most airlines, crew have the option of "bidding" for particular flights that they'd like to operate. Whether you will ever find said flights on your roster is dependant on scheduling requirements and seniority, or so we are told. When I first switched to the A380 fleet, I did it with one destination in mind: Toronto. After a year away from home I knew that the only way to maintain my sanity would be to have the ability to occasionally fly to my home country.
I'd heard notorious things about the flight, and therefore assumed that I stood a good chance of being rostered for it most months. After all, I was getting high on the economy class seniority list, and who else would be bidding for it?!
The first month on the new fleet, I eagerly checked my roster. I had plans to meet Ryan in Toronto and we'd have a fabulously romantic weekend together. Life would be great once again. You can imagine my dismay when schedule day came along and there was no "YYZ" in store for me. I shrugged it off (okay, I whined for the duration of the month) and bid for the next month, hoping for better results. No such luck. I bid every month, sadly discovering the horrible truth that I may never make it to Toronto. November rolled around and since I was going home for a vacation anyways, I didn't see the sense in bidding to go to Canada. So what happens? They give me a 3 day layover in Toronto, obviously. Just my luck. Granted, I had an amazing time and I was thankful for the trip, but since it was only 2 weeks before going home, Ryan and I decided that it was best to save the money and just reunite later that month. In December, I bid for Christmas in Toronto. I was given 5 days off instead... days that were spent miserably in Dubai since everyone else I knew was flying. Frustrated, I gave up bidding in February. It clearly wasn't working for me and only led to greater disappointment. You can probably guess what happened. Yeah, that's right... they sent me to Toronto!! It was as though they purposely denied me the trip when I'd asked for it. I decided to test my newfound theory by not bidding the following month. Sure enough, I found yet another Canadian trip on my roster! The moral of the story: Bidding does NOT work!
Anyways, now that I've spent a great deal of time (I'm really not that bitter, might I add) sidetracking from the original intent of my blog post... on to my latest trip to Toronto!
Unlike my previous weekend layovers, this happened to be a Wednesday flight. The downside to weekdays is that the layover is 2 days as opposed to 3 on the weekends, but regardless it's still our longest layover on the 380. Ryan had come to visit the month prior, so understandably he wouldn't be able to make it this time around. I proceeded to make plans with my Grandma, who lives an hour outside of the city.
The flight over was torturous. The previous ones had been busy, but nothing in comparison. Even the seniors were shocked at the chaos. For 14 hours, it was non-stop. People begged for food and water as though they'd been on a deserted island for months. It did get a bit overwhelming at times, but nothing we couldn't handle. We've really seen it all in this airline. I kept optimistic, reassuring the several brand new crew members that the layover would make it worth it. I secretly hoped that I wasn't wrong. We landed and kicked off (okay, politely said goodbye to) the crazy passengers after an exhausting trip. I was relieved to be back in the cool fresh air. I love Canada!! Back at the hotel the crew made plans for dinner, but I had my own plans. It was Rrroll up the Rim time at Tim Horton's... for you Canadian readers, that's all I need to say. For the rest of you, just know that it's kind of a big deal for us obsessed coffee loving Canucks. I dined on a nice warm bowl of chilli with a large French Vanilla cappuccino. I figured that buying a larger size would increase my chances of winning a prize, but I was wrong and rolled up the rim to a sad "Please Play Again". I was discouraged, but vowed to play again throughout my layover. The time change was taking it's toll on me and I was feeling extremely sleepy despite my large coffee. I returned to the warmth of my room where I spoke to Ryan on the phone until I was no longer capable of making basic conversation. After we'd hung up, I fell asleep in minutes, waking up at 5 am to start a brand new day! After a shower it was back to Timmy's, of course. Another coffee and a breakfast wrap, and I was set!! I packed my small bag and set off for the train station... I was going to visit my grandparents and a few other family members! I successfully found the right train, boarded, and sat looking out the window. I remember riding that train as a little girl and I was almost just as excited 20 years later. I managed to get off at the correct station and there was my grandma, standing waiting for me!! I ran to hug her, happy to be able to visit again. We drove to her house, via the grocery store where I stocked up on a few Canadian essentials... Minute Rice & Mrs. Dash.
After arriving at her house my Great Grandma called and unfortunately let us know that she wasn't feeling well. I came along for the ride to the doctor's office and although it wasn't the best of circumstances, it was nice to see my Great "Grams" again. Once she was back home we ventured out to the Hamilton airport, where I was able to indulge in my nerdiness at the Warplane Museum. There were so many planes from different eras, and I happily wandered taking photos and asking the overly helpful volunteers questions. We took a break to eat lunch in the restaurant with view of the sleepy tarmac. I'm so used to living in Dubai and traveling to major airports that such a quiet one struck me as fascinating. In the gift shop I grabbed a cute pilot rubber ducky to add to my collection, and we headed on our way. We stopped to visit Sheri, who is dating my Uncle Troy and has been for what seems like forever and really should just marry him already... but we can't seem to convince them. She gave us a tour of her work and then it was time to go back to the grandparent's house to relax for awhile. After she was finished at work, Sheri picked us up and brought us to her house where a delicious dinner courtesy of my uncle awaited us. I was in food Heaven.... steak, chicken, salmon.. all fresh and home cooked and delicious. Also joining us for dinner was my cousin Colton and underneath our feet was Stella, the baby of the family.... a crazy, cuddly hyperactive boxer. I loved her, and after dinner we cuddled on the couch as I struggled to stay awake. Jet lag had got the best of me again. I barely had the energy to wash my face and brush my teeth before bed, but somehow I managed.
The next morning I was up early to get ready to catch the train back to the city. We made a pit stop at the very first Tim Horton's store EVER, where I took photos despite having taken many of the exact same sign over the years. Once again, I was tremendously disappointed to find that I had not won a new car. We reached the train station and as it pulled away from the station I waved goodbye to my grandparents, just like a cliche movie scene.
A guy around my age sat next to me and proceeded to tell me about his life and his girlfriend and 2 year old daughter until we reached Toronto. I dropped off my things in the hotel room and quickly ventured back out, determined to make the most of the little time I had left in the city. I went to St Lawrence Market, where I picked up yummy fresh berries and cupcake baking essentials, since I've talked about making cupcakes since I moved to Dubai and have yet to do so. After I'd left the market I found a grocery store. I nostalgically wandered the aisles, remembering the days when delicious and healthy food was so readily available. I grabbed a few treats snacks for the flight back to Dubai. I knew that I should probably get some sleep before my flight, but instead I decided to go to Eaton Centre. I found so many great things that I felt the need to own, but managed to convince myself to leave most of them on the shelves due to lack of suitcase space. I reluctantly wandered back to the hotel, grabbing lunch from a salad bar at another grocery store on the way. I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, thinking about how I really shouldn't be awake, which of course kept me awake from the stress of the situation. Eventually, I managed to catch 2 hours of rest before it was time to go back to the airport. After my wake up call I rushed to Tim Horton's for one final coffee. This was it, this was the winning cup! I was convinced, but apparently that didn't matter. Sad to leave, I headed to the lobby. I secretly had hoped for a miraculous flight cancellation, but that is just not my luck. We made the long journey back to Dubai, complete with a few crazy passengers but overall a massive improvement from the outbound sector! I'd normally be extremely sad to leave my country, but fortunately I'll be back on the 18th for 2 whole weeks! It's a great Canadian month for me!!